5 Interesting Highlights About Nigeria From the Global Findex Report

After an abysmal performance between 2014 and 2017, the newly published 2021 Global Findex reveals that Nigeria is back to where it was… in 2014

Sustainable and Inclusive DFS
6 min readJul 5, 2022
Source: Global Findex Report 2021

The 2017 Global Findex was bad news for Nigerians because financial inclusion regressed between 2014 and 2017 (making Nigeria one of the most excluded countries in the world), with a worrisome gender gap of 20 percentage points.

The 2021 Global Findex report is more exciting because Nigeria progressed by 15 basis points to 45% inclusion since 2017. The report itself is a compendium of insights that unearth useful information on the state of financial access, usage, resilience and barriers facing millions of people across the 123 countries (including Nigeria).

This article presents snippets about Nigeria’s most notable developments from the report. But first, a global overview.

Global Financial Inclusion Progress

76 percent of the world’s adults (over 15 years and above) are financially included i.e. have a bank account, wallet or another formal financial service like insurance. That’s 7 percentage points more than 2017's 69 percent. This is equivalent to an additional 300 million people.

Mobile money account ownership grew 127 percent, (from 4.4 percent in 2017 to 10 percent in 2021), validating mobile money as a key driver of financial inclusion especially in sub Saharan Africa (SSA) where 33 percent of adults now have a mobile money account. With the largest proportion of mobile money accounts, from 20.9 percent in 2017, SSA is the mobile money continent.

According to the report, financial inclusion growth was widespread across dozens of developing economies, rather than majority of it occurring in China and India (as it did between 2011 and 2017). This is good news.

Nigeria’s Financial Inclusion Progress

In Nigeria, account ownership grew from 39.7 percent to 45 percent between 2017 and 2021, taking us back to 2014 rates.

If you recall, between 2014 and 2017, financial inclusion in Nigeria dropped to 39.7 percent from 44.4 percent , due to factors including the recession and the introduction of the biometric verification number (BVN) exercise in 2015, which resulted in many customers losing access to their accounts.

Put another way, Nigeria appears to have been running in place since 2014 without any significant increase in the number of banked citizens.

There’s more sad news — the gender gap remains at 20 percentage points. Only 34.96 percent of Nigerian women are included compared to 55.45 percent of Nigerian men. The persistent gender gap makes it evident that any effort to increase overall account ownership in Nigeria needs to prioritize financial inclusion for women.

Mobile money grows but inclusion remains evasive

Since 2017, Nigeria has experienced a fintech boom, with over 200 fintechs, and produced 4 fintech unicorns. So it’s no surprise that mobile money account ownership grew to 8.65 percent (a 65% increase). It was 5.6 percent in 2017.

Nevertheless, we expected more significant gains in overall financial inclusion as digital payments and transactions have increased exponentially within the country since 2017. One reason for the disparity is most likely that operators are focusing on the majority of already banked individuals, rather than venturing into the hard to reach regions where majority of the unbanked live.

Another reason for financial exclusion, particularly among women, is the lack of a mobile phone and/or ID documents, according to the report. Unbanked Nigerian women are almost twice as likely as unbanked men to cite lack of a mobile phone and ID documents as reasons they do not have an account. In Sub-Saharan Africa in general, mobile phone ownership and identification documents remain major barriers to opening mobile money accounts, especially for women.

Education and Financial Inclusion

There’s significant correlation between education levels and financial inclusion and more educated adults continue to have greater account ownership. This holds true in Nigeria, as more educated adults are 39 percentage points more likely than their less educated counterparts to have an account. Account ownership remains low among less educated adults — those who have only a primary school education or less — at only 25.8 percent. This is compared to 65.2 percent of adults with secondary school education or more who are included.

The reason for the disparity is understandable as less educated adults are also likely to be poorer, more vulnerable to fraud and easily trapped in cycles of poverty, making it challenging to increase account ownership in this group.

Zooming out, it doesn’t bode well for the future of our national human development index, as 18.5 million children, majority of whom are girls, are presently out of school. Without any urgent intervention, these children could remain in a vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion.

This further strengthens the argument that financial access is just one part of a complex equation. There are other important dimensions to the problem that require concurrent interventions to ensure efforts and investments to tackle financial inclusion are not in vain.

Unemployment impacts inclusion

Speaking of concurrent interventions, Nigerian adults who are active in the labor force are almost twice as likely to have an account as those who are not.

Again, research has proved over time that working — or looking for work — correlates with having a financial account. In late 2020, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics reported that about one-third of Nigerians were unemployed. With such a high rate of unemployment, the knock-on effects are evident on the rate of financial exclusion.

Location, location, location

Location also matters to inclusion. People living in rural areas are more likely to be financially excluded than people in urban areas. There is a 20 percentage point difference in account ownership between adults in urban areas and those in rural areas in Nigeria.

Recommendations and Opportunities

Digitise utilities payments

One of the best ways to increase account use is to more fully digitise payments for water, electricity, and other utility bills. Globally, 620 million adults with an account paid their utility bills in cash in 2021. In Nigeria, about 35 percent of account holders paid their utility bills with cash.

Interestingly, the report reveals that some people have the option of paying utility bills digitally, but choose not to because of high fees, lack of proof of payment, or other concerns. If providers could offer “convenient, reliable, and low- or no-cost options for digital utility payments, they could improve efficiency and usage” of digital payments by those unwilling to do so.

Digitise agriculture payments

Another opportunity to increase account ownership is by digitising payments for the sale of agricultural products. Digitising agricultural payments could increase the share of banked adults in Nigeria by up to 16 percentage points, according to the World Bank report.

Onboarding informal saving systems

In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, about 50 million unbanked adults saved semi-formally, including about 35 million women. Fully formalising semi-formal savings could reduce the share of adults without an account by up to 12 percent in Nigeria.


Nigeria’s financial inclusion journey has been arduous.

In 2017, concerning the state of financial inclusion according to the 2017 Findex Report, we wrote that, “we have to be bolder and more strategic in planning and executing future inclusion drives”. The same holds true today — Nigeria has spent almost 7 years running in place without any significant progress in financial inclusion numbers.

We have to figure out ways to not only move millions of Nigerians out of poverty and exclusion, we have to build systems that will keep them included, ensuring that financial inclusion gains are not transient.



Sustainable and Inclusive DFS

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