NIGERIA’S Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has told Nigerian banks to look beyond their current market reach and explore options in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Osinbajo, at the just-concluded 14th Annual conferences of the Chartered Institute of Bankers held in Abuja, said the AfCFTA presented a wide array of opportunities for bankers to explore from, rather than drag financial space with fintech firms.
“Sometime in the past few weeks, I was involved in an intense meeting between the bankers and telcos. The truth is that the finance and banking space must be opened to as many people as possible, and technology is going to make it inevitable.”
Osinbajo remarked at the conference that banks feared that fintech companies were about to take their meal, but there were many opportunities in the AfCFTA.
The vice president said the continental trade pact was still at the negotiating stage of rules of origin, urging banks to ensure they took up roles at the negotiating stage.
The banking and financial services sector must take up evolving opportunities in mobile payment platforms to enhance financial inclusion, he said.
The vice president further said that banking and financing had been supporting economic development in the country.
He urged the banks to explore opportunities in consumer and housing financing, noting that housing linkage to economic prosperity was an established fact.
A federal high court in Abuja had, in August, granted the request of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to freeze accounts of six fintech companies.
The apex bank said it was investigating ‘illegal foreign exchange trading’ by the fintech companies. It sought the court injunction to freeze their accounts for 180 days pending the completion of investigations.
The firms included: Rise Vest Technologies Limited, Bamboo Systems Technology Limited, Bamboo Systems Technology Limited OPNS, Chaka Technologies Limited, CTL/Business Expenses, and Trove Technologies Limited.
Following this concern, many Nigerians have expressed worry that the apex bank has been harsh on fintech firms that are exploring options in the financial sector.
They insist that the apex bank is shutting down innovations that drive financial inclusion.
An Associate Consultant to the British Department for International Development Celestine Okeke said the Federal Government must widen the space for fintech firms seeking to explore opportunities in financial inclusion.
An economist Tope Fasua said it showed that fintech companies were “beginning to have some systemic importance, in which case it may have a reverberating effect on the whole economy.”
“That is why regulators must continue to be extremely careful, in terms of their regulation and understanding of what the fintech companies do,” he added.