November 9, 2016
The post originally appeared on The Guardian.
When the Central Bank of Nigeria launched its national financial inclusion strategy, it cited research from EFina that 36.9 million Nigerians are unbanked, majority of who are women. Women, especially in Nigeria, want access to a bank account and a safe place to keep their money, but physical proximity to a branch, lack of trust, financial literacy, affordability and eligibility remain real obstacles.
Financial inclusion is increasingly recognized as a critical part of the global agenda to reduce poverty and boost prosperity. The World Bank and partners issued commitments to advance financial inclusion and achieve “Universal Financial Access” by 2020.
However, the gender gap persists, as women in developing countries are nine percentage points less likely to have a bank account. In Nigeria, where nearly 73 per cent of all women are unbanked, the gap is even wider having increased from 7.3 percent to 20.7 percent between 2011 and 2014.
While the inequality is frustrating, it is also ironic, as research shoes that women are naturally better savers, especially in Nigeria where women set aside up to 60 per cent of their earnings. Women are more loyal customers, less likely to default on loans, and more likely to take advantage of multiple financial products. More importantly, women with financial access invest in their children’s education, better healthcare for their families and better housing.
“Establishing a financial inclusion division was not driven by a philanthropic mindset but with focus on serving low-income segment, especially women. This is an important part of our growth strategy. As a leading retail bank, when you see many millions of people, you see a great opportunity to bank new customers,” says Kayode Olubiyi, Financial Inclusion Divisional Head at Diamond Bank Plc.
And that is why despite an impending economic crisis in the country, Diamond Bank is full steam ahead with its financial inclusion activities, launching its agent banking product Diamond Closa in August 2016, as well as planned rollout of KWIK Loan, a short-term, instant approval loan program based on the clients’ savings history.