Tolu Oyekan, a partner in Boston Consulting Group (BCG)’s Lagos office, has revealed that Nigeria made tremendous progress in the area of financial inclusion in the early 2010s.
Tolu, who joined BCG in 2014 having interned at the firm in 2013, has spent time working in both the Lagos and Chicago offices and is now a core member of the Corporate Finance & Strategy, Social Impact, Financial Institutions, Energy, and Global Advantage practices.
His client work focuses on strategy and operational topics in the private, social, and public sectors—in industries including oil and gas, banking, government, industrial goods, and health care. He uses his cross-sector experience to increase cooperation among Africa’s private, social, and public sectors.
Before joining BCG, Tolu worked as an engineer supporting equipment and process development for a global material science company.
In an exclusive interview with BizWatch Nigeria, Tolu gave an insight into Nigeria’s economy and other areas.
- The Nigerian government is offering different stimulus packages to households, MSMES and companies affected by the pandemic? Do you feel this is enough to cushion the impact of the pandemic on Nigerians? If not, what more can you suggest to be added or removed.
Stimulus packages are typically not enough in most parts of the world, even the developed parts. The intent of government transfers is to reduce the pain, but the pain typically lingers until economic recovery. The goal of the Nigerian government must be to implement policies that speed economic recovery
- What more can the Nigerian government do to sustain the economy, recover from the recession and record impressive economic growth this year and beyond?
The Key is to ensure strong governance and accountability around the key policies such as the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan. If we implement, we should improve the economic fundamentals and improve preparedness for a post-pandemic rebound
- What is your perception of the progress made by Nigeria concerning financial inclusion?
Nigeria made tremendous progress in the early 2010s, driving formal financial inclusion to around 50% of adults by 2014, according to EFInA’s Access to Financial Services Survey. Although there is evidence of continued government action and experimentation, growth has stalled since around 2014. We must remain persistent and continue to innovate until the tens of millions of Nigerians who are currently excluded have access
- Only two telecom operators (9mobile and Glo) with a total subscribers base of 67 million, were granted PSB licenses. Is this enough to extend the reach of financial services to remote areas?
It is exciting that PSBs, which can offer high-volume, low-value digital transaction services, such as remittances, microsavings accounts, and withdrawals cheaply have been licensed. Our observation is that these new banks are in fact targeting rural parts of the country, and if this activity level increases with the rural focus, financial access should improve
- Are mobile money/PSB licensees offering enough innovative financial products and services that will improve the socioeconomic status of their customers?
We have observed the market focusing more on financial access so far, deepening and product innovation is still nascent but should begin to emerge as a differentiator, first in urban areas where a higher share of the population has financial access, and subsequently in the rural areas as access increases there
- The Nigerian government is investing in off-grid solar energy. What benefits do you see in this initiative?
Over 40% of Nigerians do not have access to electricity today, according to the World Bank, and many more are underserved. Waiting for the capital intensive grid to reach these individuals would limit their ability to contribute more productively. Off-grid solar and solar home systems enable electrification and increased productivity more expediently
- What role can PAYGo play in boosting the socioeconomic status of low-income populations?
Access to credit, in general, enables the ability to make investments now that have greater returns later, making one better off. We show in analysis around procuring solar home systems for example, that low income homes that cannot afford the full cost of a solar home system can get the benefit of electricity through PAYGo, as the monthly payments are more affordable for them
- Has the impact of PAYGo been tested in other countries?
The Kenyan market serves as a good example of how PAYGo has supported electrification, with access to electricity rising from ~25% in 2012 to over 50% now
- How would you rate Nigeria’s economy vis-à-vis the pandemic and political troubles and amidst CBN’s interventions?
2020 was challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, which persists. The economic fallout from the pandemic ended up not being as bad as had been feared, with the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics reporting real GDP growth in the second half of 2020 versus the first half. We anticipate that Nigeria will begin inching back to its pre-2020 growth path in 2021 as the economy continues to open up and vaccination rates increase around the world, and hopefully in Nigeria. In the event that additional lockdowns are required in 2020 due to limited vaccinations and/or appearance of new virus strains, growth may slow again, with return to growth of around 2% not realized until 2022.