Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said that the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCTA, offered Nigeria great opportunities to extend its banking and financial services across Africa.
Osinbajo made the submission while addressing the 12th Annual Banking and Finance Conference 2019 of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, CIBN, on Tuesday in Abuja.
News Agency of Nigeria reports that the two-day conference has the theme, “The Future of the Nigerian Banking Industry-360.’’
Osinbajo said there was also need for Nigeria to boost its exports which could not be achieved without improving infrastructure.
He said: “With the signing by the President of the African Continental Free Agreement, there are great opportunities and challenges.
“We have great opportunities to extend the reach of our banking and financial services across Africa where we are making waves, and export more where we are exporting, especially in fast moving goods, cement and now fintech.
“But we must improve infrastructure to expand our manufacturing base, and produce cheaper; this is crucial because we are also the target market for all Africa.
“We are faced with the threat of smuggling; we will now have to contend with the threat of dumping.
“This is why the current stage of negotiations on the AfCTA is crucial; I think the sum and substance of what I am saying is that, our financial service sector now has to redefine itself.’’
He said that concerted efforts needed to be made to lend to Micro Small and Medium Enterprises, MSMEs, and the entire real sector.
He said that CBN had been in partnership with some banks and had successfully given loans to almost one million farmers under the Anchor Borrowers Programme but the need was far greater.
According to him, there are series of measures Federal Government has taken to unlock lending to critical, labour intensive sectors of the economy.
“In agriculture, we have seen how the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, NIRSAL, has given the banking industry greater confidence to unlock new capital for Agropreneurs by de-risking value chains across the nation.
“The immediate dividend of enhanced agricultural productivity is the sharp increase in the population of employed and banked Nigerians.”
He noted that reducing the nation’s foreign exchange expenditure on food imports, would be be expended on its extensive infrastructure development and social investment programmes for further job creation and enhanced financial inclusion.
“We are leveraging on the success, knowledge and experience of our work in NIRSAL to fundamentally reform the Solid Minerals Development Fund, SMDF.”
According to Osinbajo, it is also de-risklue chains in the Solid Minerals sector with a Risk-Sharing mechanism, to secure lending from the banking sector for private capital to in-flow and build new allied industries.
“We have been in discussions with PENCOM on de-risking pension funds to enable lending for infrastructure development.’’
The vice president said that financial inclusion was key to realising President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to lift 100 million people out of poverty in 10 years.
He said that the journey of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty started with collaboration with the Bank of Industry, BOI, to deliver the Government Enterprises and Empowerment Programme, GEEP, – Tradermoni and Marketmoni.
Osinbajo said that by providing microcredit to almost 2 million petty traders, BOI had brought the huge bottom of the pyramid into the formal financial system.
He said that after emerging from a recession, Nigeria had attained a reasonable measure of macroeconomic stability.
Earlier, in his address of welcome, CIBN’s President, Uche Olowu, said that the conference was symbolic and significant to CIBN and Nigeria in two great ways’.
He said it marked the 125th anniversary of the emergence of banking in Nigeria.
Olowu said it was also coming exactly a week after the 23rd World Conference on Banking Institutes hosted by the London Institute of Banking and Finance.
In his remarks, CBN President, Godwin Emefiele, said that 21st century banking was digital and had come to stay in Nigeria.
Represented by Dr Joseph Nnanna, Deputy Governor, Economic Policy Directorate, CBN, Emefiele urged the Nigerian banking system to be alive to its responsibility, reminding them that the days of arm-chair banking were over.