By Omoh Gabriel, Business Editor
The CBN governor Professor Charles Soludo on Sunday said that the apex bank will not regulate lending to women in Nigeria as expected by Civil society group in the country. Speaking on a panel discussion in one of the IMF seminar series the Governor said that banks in Nigeria especially Access Bank has developed a gender based lending programme for Nigeria women. He said in the new spirit of liberalisation and reforms going on in the industry it is only fair the lending rates be left in the hands of market forces. According to the Governor if concessionary lending is given to women, other groups in society will agitate for the extension of same to them and all manner of demands will come up.
Reacting to a question from a participant who sought to know the level of inflows since banking consolidation the governor said that the huge investments in the Nigerian capital market have been attributed to huge remittances by Nigerians in the Diaspora, especially since the beginning of the banking sector consolidation.
This was a disclosure to a select managing directors and other finance industry experts who participated at a discussion on how key constraints to better financial services in Africa are being overcome.
Professor Soludo, at the occasion revealed that although it is difficult to put a figure to remittances back home, it amounts to several billions, apart from the about $650million raked in during the banking sector consolidation.
The Managing Director of First Bank of Nigeria Plc Jacobs Ajekigbe, who was mandated by the governor to answer what the Nigerian banks are doing in harnessing the inflow of funds in the formal and informal sectors to finance Small and Medium scale enterprises in Nigeria said that the funds being remitted are not classified in the balance sheet of any Nigeria bank as from formal or informal sector but that such inflow are mainly used for the purchase of shares, bonds and estates; payment of school fees, catering for aged parents and solving other family problems.
Africa’s financial industry leaders also on Sunday in Singapore admitted that although the region’s financial sector was showing signs of strengthening, it largely remained shallower than those in other low-income regions across the globe. This they said is the reason they offer a narrow range of services.
According to them “Only a small fraction of household and individuals have access to formal financial services. Lending activities by banks concentrate on governments and large exporters, while the rural sector and small and medium term enterprises remain all but excluded from domestic credits,” they admitted.
The panelists include the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor Charles Soludo, Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer, Stanbic Bank, South Africa, Mr. Craig Bond, Managing Director, Citi Group Country office, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. Michael Losembe and former deputy Managing Director, IMF, Mr. Anne O. Krueger.
Advocating that a deeper and more efficient financial market with a wider outreach will be key to meeting Africa’s growth challenges, they however acknowledged that in such countries as Nigeria and Congo, significant developments were taking place.
“Things are getting better, be it regulation or reforms. The reforms have created greater confidence and gradually the cash economy is changing,” they said.
They also highlighted some of the factors necessary for the banking sector in Africa to perform optimally. Some of these they outlined to include favourable credit and risk rating as well as reducing the collateral that they said was large enough to prevent the financial system from performing its roles in the development of the African economies.