UNSGSA Queen Máxima Keynote Speech for the 2022 Nigeria International Financial Inclusion Conference

H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), provided a virtual keynote address for the Nigeria International Financial Inclusion Conference on 24 November 2022.


Honorable Minister, Governor Emefiele, friends, and colleagues,

In 2012, I was honored to attend the launch of Nigeria’s first national financial inclusion strategy. 

We have come a long way over the past 10 years, with much to be proud of. 

In 2017, I met Afusat Iyabo — a yam seller — who spoke about how mobile money transformed her business, allowing her to build resilience through daily savings, and better provide for her family through domestic remittances.  

More recently, the pandemic spurred digital adoption, leading to over 5 million new accounts by the end of 2020, and a fourfold increase in digital transactions. 

With the recent licensing of Smartcash and Momo, mobile money is well poised to fuel progress in financial inclusion. 

Yet, much work remains.

The World Bank Global Findex survey shows only a 5% growth in financial inclusion between 2017 and 2021. 

Large disparities persist between men and women, the rich and the poor, and northern and southern states. New bank accounts, agent registrations, and digital transactions are largely an urban phenomenon.  

And managing economic shocks remains difficult. Only 14% of adults today can come up with emergency funds without much difficulty.

Now this new strategy offers a genuine chance to achieve our common vision — that every Nigerian, no matter their background, geography, or gender, can improve their lives through access to quality financial services.

Now is the time for action and innovative solutions to seize the many new opportunities before us.

First, we have a chance to significantly increase access to digital identification, which is critical for service delivery, from finance to health and education.

The growth in enrollment for National Identification Numbers — now above 89 million — is an encouraging development. 

Moving forward, we can explore how the NIN and banking verification numbers can better integrate and complement each other’s objectives. 

Quick passage of the data protection act will further support digital service delivery.  

Second, we can ensure that services and businesses are able to sustainably reach the last mile.

This includes the fintech sector, whose impact on financial inclusion has untapped potential which can be enhanced through a range of policy measures. Making fully operational the regulatory sandbox efforts and simplifying licensing frameworks will be really key here.

Making full use of tiered KYC rules for low-income and rural customers, expanding shared agent networks, and further investing in mobile and data network coverage, is key to reach rural clients, including in northern states.

Third, this is an opportune moment to close the financial gender divide in Nigeria, which at 20%, remains significantly higher than the Sub-Saharan average. 

Ensuring gender parity in access to digital IDs, mobile phones, and digital connectivity is an ideal place to start. International good practice tells us that digitizing government-to-people and people-to-government payments can make a real difference, as well boosting digital and financial literacy.

Providers can show leadership here by rolling out dedicated solutions that meet the needs of women. 

Access Bank’s digital loan product for women-led SMEs is a promising example. It shows how alternative data can break traditional barriers and create new business opportunities for market actors. 

Looking ahead, if implemented to its full capacity, this strategy has real potential to bring positive change to tens of millions of Nigerians. The time for action is now.

For my part, I look forward to continuing to work closely with President Buhari and Governor Emefiele, sharing best practices and technical resources, and encouraging a coordinated approach across government and the private sector. 

Thank you so much and I wish you all success.