DIGITAL FINANCE: A VERITABLE TOOL FOR FINANCIAL INCLUSION OF FARMERS IN NIGERIA
A SEMINAR PAPER PRESENTED TO THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS AND EXTENSION, FACULTY OF AGRICULTURE,
UNIVERSITY OF PORT HARCOURT, NIGERIA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT FOR THE AWARD OF A MASTERS OF SCIENCE DEGREE IN AGRIC. ECONOMICS (AGRIC. FINANCE AND PROJECT ANALYSIS)
COURSE CODE: AGE 806.1
COURSE TITLE: SEMINAR
COURSE COORDINATOR: DR. Z. A. ELUM
TABLE OF CONTENT
Background of Study
Statement of Problem
Objectives of the Study
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1 Population of phone users in Nigeria
Figure 2 Population of Nigeria
Figure 3 Summary of phone users and Nigeria’s population.
This study reviews the concept of digital financing, explores the role and potentials of digital finance in agricultural value chain development, the impact of digital financing in financial inclusion of Nigerian farmers, and identifies challenges against effective up-scaling of digital financing as a tool for financial inclusion. This study was carried out using a desktop research and it was observed that financial services have significant impacts on agriculture both in the short and the long run, meaning that for sustainable agricultural development in rural areas, improving financial inclusion is critical. Financial inclusion is needed throughout the agricultural value chain to achieve broad-based economic growth which can raise incomes for low-income households. Within the last two and half years, tens of thousands of villages and some eight million farmers have benefited through digital finance. When digital finance is applied to the lives of low-income and poor people such as farmers, there is improvement in their access to basic services, thereby leading to greater financial inclusion especially in rural areas. Though digital finance can have negative effects for financial inclusion such as lack of mobile phone penetration, network coverage, educational challenges and preference in the provision of digital finance, it is recommended that awareness should be created, digital financial tools be made available and a proper working environment be made available by the government so as to achieve greater financial inclusion of farmers in Nigeria.
1.1Background of Study
Nigeria, a Sub-Saharan African nation, has huge agricultural potentials. Agriculture is therefore, a common, widespread and important activity in most areas of the country (Adebayo ; Olagunju, 2015). Nwankpa (2017) also adds that 70 -80% which are the majority of Nigeria’s labour force are peasants and practice subsistent farming with holdings which are generally small and scattered. At independence, Agriculture controlled Nigeria’s economy and contributed greatly to the Gross Domestic Product of the nation (Nwankpa, 2017). Ogbalubi and Wokocha (2013) stated that due to a favorable climate, Nigeria produces several foods, cash crops fruits and vegetables. Some of these produce include sorghum, beans, plantain, cassava, rice, millet, sweet potato, corn, cow-pea, coco-yam and many others. Lumbering, poultry, cattle rearing, fishery, are other significant portions of the Nigeria’s agricultural sector.
In 1968, crude oil was discovered in large quantities for sales and the following oil boom of the 1970s led to the displacement of agriculture as the driver of the nation’s economy (Nigeria Institute of Social Economic Research NISER, 2015). Nigeria’s economy is highly dependent on oil for considerable percentage of its foreign exchange earnings (Nwankpa, 2017). Adesina (2012) adds that the foregoing led to a decrease in the agricultural output and this in turn led to the importation of staple foods to supplement local production.
Agriculture in Nigeria remains the chief support of the economy since it is the largest sector in terms of its share in employment. Nigeria now places special attention on financing other sectors most especially agricultural sector as an endeavor to distinguish her oil base economy since agriculture has the potential to stimulate economic growth through provision of raw materials, food, jobs and increased financial stability. In Nigeria’s effort to encourage development in all directions, it is in line that agriculture financing is one of the most important instruments of growth and development. Irrigation, land, machinery and equipment, buildings, labour, etc in the agricultural sector, all require finance. In some instances, loans may be required to purchase new and proper technologies. Finance can take away financial constraints and also speed up the adoption of new technologies (Obansa ; Maduekwe, 2013).
1.2Statement of Problem
Most farmers in Nigeria are rural-based, have low level of education; poor access to useful information, market and lack access to finance (Abochi, 2016). Due to lack of finance, these farmers are restricted in the acquisition of the required inputs to increase their output (Abochi, 2016). As a result of this, productivity has declined in the Nigerian economy and this is due to the lack of finance which prevents many farmers from adopting improved practices and some of these farmers do not have the collateral needed to secure loan or credit (Asogwa, Abu, ; Ochoche, 2014).
Asogwa et al., (2014), further adds that agricultural development is greatly dependent on finance and its lack is usually given as an explanation for several problem facing sectors, if finance is available, the agricultural sector will grow by its contributions to the industrialization and modernization of the agricultural sector. Various aspects of farming operations require finance, and finance therefore plays an important role in economic development and is therefore requisite in the process of socio-economic transformation and this implies that inadequate level of finance is a major factor that affects acceptance and usage of new technologies.
For a farmer to increase output for self-sufficiency, inputs such as improved seedlings fertilizers, pesticides, land and labour require use of finance. Although, Nigerian farmers need tangible financial resources to enable them cope with the increasing cost of inputs, finance is therefore the main solution to the low savings capacity of farmers in Nigeria due to its role in enabling farmers take care of the expenses/investments associated with increase in their output (Abochi, 2016). Poverty and low quality of life among farmers is perpetuated by limited access to finance. This is because acceptance and usage of innovations by farmers depends on how expensive it is to acquire it if they have restrictions to finance or do not have financial access at all (Asogwa et al., 2014). Thus, solving the problem of small scale farmers’ access to credit is very important in improving their performance and, as a result, will lead to economic development through its role in agricultural development.
The little efforts to encourage the farmers by the government, however, most times, does not get to the grass root, and when they are channeled at the grass root, only the farmers with political affiliation or loyalty get them. Sometimes, these credits get to false farmers who use them for non agricultural activities, thereby making the effort of the government fruitless (Abochi, 2016). In addition, credit institutions are often constrained from serving the small scale farmers by lack of property rights (acceptable collateral), high cost of transaction (cost to the financial sector for giving the loans to these farmers), high risk and low returns from agricultural businesses (Abochi, 2016). Also, the methods like loan rationing and practice (high interest rate charge) adopted by the financial institutions have not in any way attenuated the yearnings of these smallholder farmers. The timing of the loan, however, is an issue also as most of the loans granted were advanced to farmers later after they had finished their planting (Abochi, 2016).
The current level of financial inclusion and rural financial system in Nigeria cannot enhance far-reaching development of the rural and agricultural economy because a developed financial system is needed for agricultural investment which is very important to encourage job creation, increased productivity and higher incomes across the whole economy (Adeola & Evans, 2017). For agriculture to significantly enhance the incomes of these rural poor, a mixture of the best financial services and products are necessary to diversify their means of sustenance, lessen hunger, and eliminate poverty traps (Adeola & Evans, 2017). For more inclusive social and economic development in rural areas, improving these smallholder farmers’ access and usage of financing is critical.
Access and usage of financial inclusion is a requisite for agricultural growth. Financial inclusion, or banking the unbanked, is an ancillary tool to enable poor farmers to have more sustainable livelihoods. However, the financial service providers may not offer the much-needed financing for agriculture. Financial inclusion in a rural setting can be complex. In rural areas, the challenges of access and usage of financial products are larger than an urban setting. Rural populations are poor, mostly illiterates, more involved in the informal sector and sparsely distributed. For suppliers of financial services in Nigeria, therefore, the cost of rural operations is often too much which, when combined with the low returns and high risks, results in a low supply of financial services.
1.3Objectives of the Study
The broad objective of the study is to describe how digital finance can be a veritable tool for financial inclusion of farmers in Nigeria. The specific objectives of the study are to:
Review the concept of digital financing and its status in Nigeria.
Explore the role and potentials of digital finance in agricultural value chain development.
Review the impact of digital financing in financial inclusion of farmers in Nigeria.
Identify the challenges against effective up-scaling of digital financing as a tool for financial inclusion among Nigerian farmers.
2.1.1DIGITAL FINANCE IN NIGERIA
Digital financial can be defined broadly as digital access to and use of formal financial services. Such services should be suited to customers’ needs, and delivered responsibly, at a cost both affordable to customers and sustainable for providers (Lauer, 2015). Lauer (2015) goes further to add that there are three key components of any such digital financial services: a digital transactional platform, retail agents, and the use by customers and agents of a device – most commonly a mobile phone – to transact via the platform. A digital transactional platform enables a customer to use a device to make or receive payments and transfers and to store value electronically with a bank or nonbank permitted to store electronic value. Retail agents armed with a digital device connected to communications infrastructure to transmit and receive transaction details enable customers to convert cash into electronically stored value and to transform stored value back into cash. Depending on applicable regulation and the arrangement with the principal financial institution, agents may also perform other functions. The customer’s device can be digital (e.g., mobile phone) that is a means of transmitting data and information or an instrument (e.g., payment card) that connects to a digital device (e.g., POS terminal).
From another point of view of Ozili (2017), digital finance is financial services delivered through mobile phones, personal computers, the internet or cards linked to a reliable digital payment system. Similarly, a report by Manyika, Lund, Singer, White, and Berry (2016) identified digital finance as financial services delivered through mobile phones, the internet or cards. The goal of financial services made available via digital platforms is to contribute to poverty reduction and to contribute to the financial inclusion objectives of developing economies (United Nations, 2016). Ideally, there are three key components of any digital financial service: a digital transactional platform, retail agents, and the use by customers and agents of a device most commonly a mobile phone to transact via the digital platform (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor CGAP, 2015). To use digital financial services, the digital financial services user will have an existing bank account which they own (or third-party accounts with approved permission to use them), and should have available funds (or overdraft) in their accounts to make cash payments (outflows) or to receive revenue (cash inflow) via digital platforms including mobile devices, personal computers or the internet.
After the Nigerian economic downturn of the preceding two years, the recovery, which began in 2017, is expected to gain traction in 2018 (Akintunde, 2018). One of the important lessons of the economic meltdown is that the economy must be resilient to external shock in the new growth cycle. To realise a more robust growth, improvement in credit penetration to the real sectors and the SMEs is imperative (Akintunde, 2018). This means the intermediation role of the banking sector will be crucial in 2018 and going forward. To optimise the role of banking, or more precisely financing, we have to unlock digital finance (Akintunde, 2018). The wider Nigerian digital economy must also become a key frontier in the quest for economic diversification. The digital economy will help the country unlock innovation, job creation, and linkages to the global supply chain (Akintunde, 2018).
2.1.2DIGITAL FINANCE IN AGRICULTURAL VALUE CHAIN DEVELOPMENT
Financial inclusion is defined as the provision of a wide range of financial services (e.g. loans, savings, and deposits, insurance) to the poor who normally do not have access to such services. Financial inclusion can be crucial for the reduction of hunger and poverty (Adeola ; Evans, 2017). Financial inclusion is needed throughout the agricultural value chain to achieve broad-based economic growth which can raise incomes for low-income households. Access to financial services (including savings and other non-credit products) at the household level enables rural households to meet consumption and social demands (i.e. food, health care, school fees, and funeral expenses) without having to divert financing from investment opportunities (Adeola ; Evans, 2017).
Agricultural value chains tend to have seasonal financial needs due to the nature of crop and livestock maturing, and seasonal restrictions on fishing. In agriculture, there are periods of investment in producing and then a period of selling within a cycle, which can range from weeks to several years. Farmers are often cash-constrained, limiting their ability to make improvements or upgrades. Firms in the value chain, such as inputs dealers, buyers, traders and processors typically need considerable working capital for inputs, buying crop for onward sale or processing, arranging transport and for other service costs to produce and reach (distant) markets. With limited or no financial access, value chain actors face a zero-sum game in which investment and improvements at one level (such as production or inputs) can only be made at the expense of investments or improvements at another level (such as processing). As an example, some value chain firms (both buyers and inputs providers) provide advance payments or in-kind loans to producers or traders, limiting the capital available to them for their own investment and expansion. Thus, providing liquidity to such firms can have positive spillover effects for producers as well. Likewise, providing financial access directly to farmers can free up much needed capital for buyers to make the investments needed to expand operations or enter into new markets (Olaniyi, 2017).
2.1.3DIGITAL FINANCIAL INCLUSION OF FARMERS IN NIGERIA
A United Nation’s Report defines financial inclusion as the sustainable provision of affordable financial services that bring the poor into the formal economy (United Nations, 2016). Financial inclusion may also be defined as the use of formal financial services by the poor (Ozili, 2014). Financial inclusion involves increasing the number of (mostly poor) individuals that have access to formal financial services mainly through having formal bank accounts, which contributes to poverty reduction and economic growth. With greater financial inclusion, individuals who were previously financially excluded will be able to invest in education, save and launch businesses, and this contributes to poverty reduction and economic growth (Ozili, 2014). An inclusive financial system is desirable and will provide opportunities for all people, particularly the poor, to access and move funds, grow capital, and reduce risk.
With the non-digital scheme that began in 2011 and despite $180 million spent by the government, smallholder farmers did not experience any decrease in production costs (Akinboro, 2014). Within the last two and half years, tens of thousands of villages and some eight million farmers have benefited through digital finance. Of this population, approximately three quarters are active users of this digital financial service receiving direct subsidies that cut the cost of fertilizer by 50 percent (Akinboro, 2014).
According to Akinboro (2014), the agricultural ministry after recognizing that hard won subsidies which are so crucial to supporting smallholder farmers and would have little impact if they were not getting to those who needed them most, then launched the 2012 Growth Enhancement Support scheme, which used digital finance through mobile technology to transfer fertilizer subsidies directly to farmers. The government stopped the supply which saved transportation cost and transferred cash directly to smallholder farmers which helped up to twice as many farmers at a sixth of the cost. The cash transfer system was built on a first of its kind database that now includes 10.5 million farmers. The data is a first step toward bringing these otherwise unbanked farmers into the financial mainstream.
The Nigeria Risk Incentive System for Agriculture Lending, or NIRSAL, enables key agricultural sector participants, including farmers, to access finance at single-digit interest rates, using innovative forms of security for their borrowing. For example, agro-dealers can borrow using stock as collateral and previous trade history as a reference. Farmers can borrow as groups using mechanisms such as cross-guarantees. The approach has worked so far. In 2012, Nigeria injected more than 20 billion naira (about $122 million) in loans to key agricultural sector participants. With more than 40 million transactions through the mobile wallet system in just two years, it’s clear that smallholder farmers in Nigeria are poised to adopt digital financial services more broadly.
Olaniyi (2017) results show that usage of financial services has significant impacts on agriculture both in the short and the long run, meaning that for sustainable agricultural development in rural areas, improving financial inclusion is critical. There is a need for more traditional and non-traditional financial service providers to go back to the land and innovate in the Nigerian agricultural space in order to boost financial inclusion in Nigeria while also substantially reducing poverty and stimulating agricultural growth.
Agyekum, Locke, and Hewa-Wellalage (2016) examined the relationship between increasing accessibility to digital financial services and financial inclusion in lower income countries. The study revealed that Banks and non-bank organisations used digital financial services. The analysis indicated that non-bank-based digital financial services emerged as the most efficient means of delivering cost effective financial services to the previously unbanked. Mobile cellular penetration and internet usage are mutually inclusive means through which digital financial services foster financial inclusion.
The adoption of mobile telephone to provide financial services in Africa has become instrumental in integrating the hitherto unbanked segments of the population to the mainstream financial systems. A study by Ouma, Odongo, and Were, (2017) sought to establish this linkage by examining whether the pervasive use of mobile telephone to provide financial services is a boon for savings mobilization in selected countries in sub Saharan Africa. The findings show that availability and usage of mobile phones to provide financial services promotes the likelihood of saving at the household level. Not only does access to mobile financial services boost the likelihood to save, but also has a significant impact on the amounts saved, perhaps due to the frequency and convenience with which such transactions can be undertaken using a mobile phone. Both forms of savings, that is, basic mobile phone savings stored in the phone and bank integrated mobile savings are likely to be promoted by use of mobile phones (Ouma, Odongo, ; Were, 2017). Thus, growing and deepening the scope for mobile phone financial services is an avenue for promoting savings mobilization, especially among the poor and low income groups with constrained access to formal financial services (Ouma, Odongo, ; Were, 2017).
The bar chart below shows that the use of mobile phones in Nigeria increases in millions every year. If the use of mobile phone is only considered as a device for digital finance, 70-80% of Nigeria’s population who are farmers will have a better chance of having access to funds via mobile phones, hence being financially included.
SOURCE: STATISTA 2018
Fig. 1: Population of phone users in Nigeria
The bar chart below shows that the population of Nigeria increases every year. This also adds to the fact that 70-80% of Nigeria’s population who are farmers will have a better chance of having access to funds, hence being financially included.
SOURCE: STATISTA 2018
Fig. 2: Population of Nigeria
SOURCE: STATISTA 2018
Fig. 3: Summary of phone users and Nigeria’s population.
The above chart shows the summary of phone users and Nigeria’s population.
Digital finance has several benefits. It can lead to greater financial inclusion, expansion of financial services to non-financial sectors, and the expansion of basic services to individuals since nearly 50% of people in the developing world already own a mobile phone (World Bank, 2014). Two, when digital finance is applied to the lives of low-income and poor people such as farmers, there is improvement in their access to basic services, thereby leading to greater financial inclusion especially in rural areas (Ozili, 2018). Three, digital finance has the potential to provide affordable, convenient and secure banking service to poor individuals in developing countries (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor CGAP, 2015). Four, millions of farmers can move from cash-based transactions to formal digital financial transactions on secured digital platforms as a result of the recent improvement in the accessibility and affordability of digital financial services around the world (CGAP, 2015). Five, when digital financial services are channeled to rural and poor communities, there is improvement in access to finance for bank customers in rural and poor communities who cannot conveniently have access banks located in the formal sector as a result of poor transportation networks and long queuing hours in banking halls, and will reduce bank customers’ presence in bank branches and reduce cost because banks would cost-efficiently maintain fewer branches, and the lower costs would have positive effects on bank profitability and financial inclusion in rural and poor communities (Ozili 2018). Six, digital finance promises to boost the gross domestic product (GDP) of digitalised economies by providing convenient access to diverse range of financial products and services (and credit facilities) for individuals as well as small, medium and large businesses, which can boost aggregate expenditure thereby improving GDP levels. Seven, digital finance has benefits to financial and monetary system regulators because full-scale digital finance adoption can significantly reduce the circulation of bad (or fake) money, etc. Other benefits of digital finance to customers include greater control of personal finance, quick financial decision making, and the ability to make and receive payments within seconds. An easy-to-use digital finance can provide a more convenient platform for individuals to carry out basic financial transactions including payments for electricity, water supply, money transfer to family and friends etc. If digital finance platforms are easy-to-use, users of digital financial services can help inform and persuade their peers in the formal and informal (rural) sector to take advantage of digital financial services, leading to greater number of individuals using digital finance thereby leading to greater financial inclusion (Ozili, 2018).
Financial inclusion also has several benefits for poor households. It provides low-income individuals with the possibility to save for the future which fosters stability in personal finance (Han & Melecky, 2013). Greater financial inclusion can also provide poor households with opportunities to build savings, make investments and access credit (Ellis, Lemma, & Rud, 2010). Financial inclusion also enables individuals such as farmers to handle income shocks over unforeseen emergencies (Ozili, 2017). Also, low income groups are relatively immune to fluctuation in economic cycles, and including them in the financial sector will improve the stability of the deposit and loan bases in the financial system. Hannig and Jansen (2010) add that financial institutions catering to the lower end individuals tend to survive through macro-crises well and help sustain local economic activity. Additionally, Prasad (2010) also observes that the lack of adequate access to credit for small and medium-size enterprises and small-scale entrepreneurs has adverse effects on overall employment growth since these enterprises tend to be much more labour-intensive in their operations. Also, greater levels of financial inclusion can facilitate increased participation by different sectors of the economy in the formal financial system (Cecchetti & Kharroubi, 2012).
Digital finance can have negative effects for financial inclusion. With the evolving and fast developing rate of digital finance for smallholder farmers, evidence suggests that while digital finance via mobile channels offers great promise for improving the lives of smallholders and their families, significant challenges such as lack of mobile phone penetration, network coverage hinder its utilization. Providers of digital finance services are profit-seeking corporations that use digital finance to maximize their profitability or to maximize the profitable opportunities which in turns has added costs to be incurred by farmers. Educational challenges in the usage of digital financial services may occur because most of the famers are rural based and therefore lack the know-how for its usage. Preference in the provision of digital finance can be geographical because digital finance providers, based on their own internal risk assessment may change from time to time, can choose to withdraw or discontinue the provision of specific digital finance services to high-risk rural areas or communities that do not have the supporting infrastructure to sustain specific digital finance services and this can lead to lower financial inclusion of famers. Some supporting infrastructure needed to make digital finance work efficiently may include mobile phones that have modern operating software systems and applications that support digital finance services are not made available by the government and as well, these farmers channel finance to other inputs they consider as most important.
Technology has made the world a global village. Every system or sector now falls in line to reap the fruits of its advantages. Digital finance which is an example of modern day technology seeks to simplify financial procedures, make it easier and more accessible. Various means have been accessed to finds solutions to making funds available to farmers but have not completely achieved this purpose. Digital finance with its many tools usage (devices) such as mobile phones, pos, internet services, ATM cards, etc will cut across all famers and will bridge gaps faced by farmers especially as it concerns ability to access funds. With fast growth and advancement in technology and the readiness of the populace to accept its use, digital finance is a very veritable tool for financial inclusion of farmers in Nigeria.
For any new system or innovation to be effected, awareness, prospects, advantages, disadvantages, challenges and achievements must be weighed. Having established digital finance is a very good means for financial inclusion of farmers in Nigeria, the following are recommended:
Farmer should be made aware of the importance and uses of digital finance.
The government should encourage network providers, digital finance platforms and reduce taxes because the end user will definitely bear the cost.
Digital financial tools such as mobile phones, etc should be made available, affordable and usable for farmers.
Digital finance providers should be given proper terms of operation and reference to avoid extra charges or challenges.
Digital finance provider should make tools (devices) user friendly so as to accommodate more users.
Proper security and checks should be done so as to avoid fraud and theft.
The needed infrastructure that enables digital fiancé providers reach out to the rural areas should be made available.
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