4 DFS-based initiatives working towards attaining the SDGs in Nigeria

The United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is perhaps the most ambitious agenda on the planet. At the core of the agenda are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 17 in all, which aim to forge a better planet where there’s zero hunger, zero poverty, women no longer have to fight so hard for their rights, and so on.

Since the official launch in 2016, nations have made considerable efforts to “localize the SDGs”. According to the SDG document, the success of the incredibly ambitious goals requires “multi-stakeholder partnerships involving government, the private sector and civil society, all the way to the grassroots”. Countries are expected to translate the goals into national legislation, develop action plans and budgets while simultaneously onboarding partners to share the vision.

In Nigeria, the Presidential Council on SDGs is responsible for the implementation of the SDGs, ensuring that there is coherence at the national and sub-national levels. The council provides policy direction for resource mobilisation, prioritisation of interventions, periodic assessment, as well as the overall oversight of SDGs implementation.

According to Mats Granryd, GSMA Director General, “[Digital financial services] contributes to 13 of the 17 SDGs, enabling access to essential services like health and education, empowering women with employment opportunities and reducing poverty by offering life-enhancing financial services, often for the first time.

In this article, we explore the ingenious ways some organizations and initiatives are using digital financial services (DFS) to fulfil the SDGs in Nigeria.

Tackling SDG 1: Poverty

The Recycredits program is the result of a collaboration between Funds & Electronic Transfer Solutions (FETS), one of Nigeria’s licensed mobile money operators, and ChanjaDatti, a social enterprise that collects and recycles plastic waste. Part financial inclusion scheme, part women empowerment scheme, the Recycredits program targets the internally displaced women at the New Kuchingoro IDP Camp, Durumi, Abuja, in the Federal Capital Territory.

How it works: By collecting and supplying recyclable plastic waste to ChanjaDatti, displaced women living in the camp earn points which can be converted to cash-in-wallet via the FETS wallet/platform. This in turn can be later redeemed for cash.

The scheme kills two birds with one stone — while enabling the women to earn a living, the scheme also introduces the women to the formal banking system through an electronic platform.

Tackling SDG 2 — Zero Hunger

In 2012, the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) was launched by the Federal Government of Nigeria with the goal of providing direct support to farmers, enabling them to procure agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilizers and agrochemicals) at affordable prices, conveniently. GES effectively shifted the responsibility of direct procurement and distribution of fertiliser from the shoulders of government, to the private sector.

How it works: A partnership between the Federal Government and Messers Cellulant, a digital payments infrastructure provider, saw the development and rollout of Agrikore, an e-wallet system dedicated to the distribution of agricultural input subsidies. Aside providing the necessary e-wallet platform, Cellulant is also responsible for registering farmers and allocating them to agro-dealers in their locality for easy access to subsidised farm inputs.

In the 2016 Dry Season, Cellulant started to layer financial services to Agricultural services provided for farmers, using the Agrikore framework. Farmers are now connected to service points where they can access financial and agricultural services.

So far, the program which set out to service 500,000 farmer-households in 4 value chains, accomplished 92% of the targeted subsidized service. It also on-boarded an additional 200,000 farmers into the Agrikore platform. 400 agribusinesses and more than 1000 jobs have been created as a result of the program. In the immediate future, private sector and financial partners will begin injecting loans into the system (there is an agreed loan book portfolio of $100 million to be injected into smallholder farmers’ micro loans).

Tackling SDG 5 — Equality

Diamond BETA is a savings product launched by Diamond Bank, a licensed deposit money bank, and targets mainly market women. The scheme enables market women, based on their entrepreneurial activity, to hold a savings account. These women already have a saving habit, albeit they used informal providers like “Alaajo” and “Esusu”.

How it works: Using mobile phones and field service agents, the Diamond BETA scheme provides these women with a more secure saving option that is also convenient. Transactions are mostly carried out through Diamond bank field sales agents who visit and transact at the customer’s shop. The program also accommodates the inability of the target market to satisfy KYC requirements hence no documentation or passport photograph is required.

The Diamond BETA program and service delivery model also inadvertently creates new jobs for people (via the field sales agents) as well as bringing financial services to unbanked women, empowering them to take control of their finances.

Tackling SDG 8 — Decent Work and Economic Growth

Nigeria is a highly underserved market with financial exclusion towering at over 40 percent (EfinA 2016 figures). A collaboration between Paga, a Nigerian licensed mobile money operator (MMO), and the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSTEF) aims to empower micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) while increasing financial services points across Lagos State.

How it works: The LSTEF was setup to help the Lagos government catalyse entrepreneurship within the state. One of the avenues through which the fund is being strategically channeled is through the creation of a credit facility for Paga’s agent network.

The MMO agent business requires considerable amount of liquidity to thrive, a responsibility which is usually borne by banks and/or the MMOs. With the entry of the LSTEF, agents now have another line of funding which will spur business and help them stay profitable. The loans will enable agents employ more people and expand their business to more locations. At launch, the line of credit (which is given at a low 5% interest rate) was extended to 20 Paga agents and is to expand to at least 1,000 Paga agents.

Conclusion

Just from the DFS examples cited, private sector involvement cannot be overstated. Attaining the SDGs will require the active participation of private sector enterprises across diverse industries.