In a bid to achieve financial inclusion in Nigeria, Mr. Segun Agbaje, the Chief Executive Officer of Guarantee Trust Holding Company (GTCO), emphasized the urgent need for a significant reduction in the cost of data. Agbaje made these remarks during the company’s annual media parley while addressing the ongoing dispute between banks and telecommunication companies (telcos) regarding Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services and their impact on the nation’s financial inclusion goals.
Citing the example of India, Agbaje stressed that USSD is not the solution to financial inclusion. “On USSD, it is a clumsy technology, it is not a state-of-the-art technology. For those of you who have gone to India which has the same demography as Nigeria, how many of you see USSD?” he questioned.
Agbaje proposed that reducing the cost of data would be the best way to achieve financial inclusion. He argued, “The future and the best way to have financial inclusion and increase literacy is to crash the cost of data, so that data becomes more affordable so that you can use a more superior technology.”
Amid the ongoing debate surrounding USSD services and charges, Agbaje criticized the focus on USSD, deeming it a distraction from the rising cost of data in Nigeria. He stated, “The whole fight about USSD is a fantastic distraction for all the people and the telcos. You all miss the rising cost of data in Nigeria versus other economies like us. We have been distracted by USSD.”
Agbaje highlighted the significance of lowering data costs to enhance financial inclusion and literacy rates. “You want financial inclusion, you want to increase literacy so that the student can go online, do their term papers, learn online, then you need to bring down the cost of data,” he asserted.
He further emphasized, “You bring down the cost of data, we start to eradicate USSD. If you want to use USSD, the banks have told you, charge the users, the banks do not get any of the N6.98k even if you make it N10, they have said they don’t want to be involved even if you want to collect N20, but collect it from the user, don’t come to us.”
Agbaje expressed his reservations about USSD as the ultimate solution, suggesting that Nigeria should strive to make data more affordable and accessible like in India. He urged, “I keep telling anyone who cares to listen, USSD is not really the answer. For all of you who use USSD and Mobile banking, you need to get the cost of data down in Nigeria.”
Highlighting the disparities in data costs between Nigeria and India, Agbaje emphasized that Nigeria is being exploited in terms of data expenses. He stressed the importance of reducing data costs to enhance financial inclusion and literacy levels in the country.
“The cost of data compared to India, the truth is that in Nigeria we are being exploited. We should have the cost of data down so that we can increase inclusion and our literacy level,” Agbaje concluded.
As the push for financial inclusion continues in Nigeria, stakeholders will likely take note of Mr. Segun Agbaje’s advocacy for reduced data costs as a means to achieve the desired goals. With the convergence of efforts from both the financial and telecommunication sectors, the nation may witness increased accessibility, affordability, and literacy in the digital landscape, ultimately driving financial inclusion to new heights.
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