Nigeria is stepping up efforts to close the huge exclusion gap of women in the financial sector, Mary Ellen Iskenderian, CEO at Women's World Banking told CNBC Africa on Wednesday.
“There have been some really excellent efforts in the regulatory environment to give banks that push to reach out to that population. Here in Nigeria there are about 56 million people who are excluded from the formal financial sector and 27 million of them are women,” said Ellen Iskenderian, CEO at Women's World Banking.
Despite Africa’s steady growth of the financial services sector over the years, gender barriers in the urban and rural societies, remain a challenge.
Iskenderian said across Africa roughly 70 per cent of financial transactions take place in the informal sector, hence, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s decision to tap into that niche market. She said financial inclusion of the previously advantaged species now takes priority on the bank’s policy framework.
“When women have access to finance in their own names and have some discretion of how that money is spent, they tend to spend it on things like the financial education of their kids, health care of the whole family, housing, nutrition. Basically it’s things that have a tremendous impact to a better life and potentially out of poverty.
“The impact on financial empowerment of women can be that much greater than of men because men are generally far less likely to make those kinds of community and household investments than women are.”
Nigeria was recently ranked a leading country in the banking sector throughout the continent, an international software company revealed in June.