Innovative Savings Program for Nigerian Underserved Women

Microfinance Focus, April 26, 2012: Women’s World Banking, Diamond Bank and Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA) announced that they are partnering to advance financial inclusion in Nigeria for underserved women. They intend to provide them with an opportunity to become economically and socially empowered through access to a savings account.

Nigeria has a good per cent of women who are financially underserved. Women are good savers, but they need safe and convenient way to save. With this partnership Visa and EFInA will provide philanthropic funding for Women’s World Banking to support Diamond Bank in developing a commercially viable savings product tailored to the needs of underserved women in the country. Both traditional bank branches and mobile phones will be included as channels to deliver savings accounts.

This project will be executed in three phases. First, Women’s World Banking will work with Diamond Bank to research and understand what type of savings services Nigerian women want and need to improve their financial lives. Second, the organizations will collaborate on designing and piloting a product that will be available at physical branches and on mobile phones. Finally, a savings product will be launched nationally after a successful pilot. In addition, financial education for women will be provided in partnership with local community organizations.

Mary Ellen Iskenderian, president and CEO, Women’s World Banking, said, “Without access to savings services, women are forced to keep cash at home or in informal savings mechanisms – both risky options that could result in theft or loss. Women in developing countries are usually responsible for managing household budgets; gaining access to a safe way to save is often a critical stepping stone out of the cycle of poverty for the whole family.”

Joe Saunders, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Visa Inc., noted, “Around the world, there is a growing recognition that cash-based economies are a major impediment to advancing financial inclusion. Helping the underserved women of Nigeria to move physical cash out from under mattresses and into formal savings accounts – combined with the potential of mobile phones to enable access to these accounts –will be a significant step toward financial inclusion in the market.”

Financial inclusion has been a priority for the government of Nigeria. Last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria announced a commitment to reduce Nigeria’s financial exclusion rate from 46.3 per cent to 20 per cent by 2020. In addition, the country’s Cashless Lagos Project aims to reduce the use of cash and increase electronic transactions.

“We believe this is an opportunity to prove that meeting the needs of women in developing countries can be sustainable. The partners involved in this project are poised to build that business case, while also contributing to a real and lasting impact for women,” added Iskenderian.

Women’s World Banking (WWB) is a global microfinance network focused on women and working to ensure that financial institutions provide services tailored to women’s needs.  Visa is a global payments technology company that connects consumers, businesses, financial institutions, and governments.

Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA) is a financial sector development organization that promotes financial inclusion in Nigeria. Diamond Bank is one of the leading banks in Nigeria.

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