Image credit: Access Bank
The financial sector in Nigeria is attempting to encourage a cultural shift toward savings with several new programs. Any significant social or cultural change, however, needs to first examine the factors and issues that are keeping the status quo in place, and addressing change that targets those issues. Nigeria’s Access Bank has introduced a new Family Savings program and the government is supporting financial literacy education in secondary schools. Both of these issues address challenges for financial inclusion and financial literacy to move into the mainstream.
Why don’t people save? Psychologists suggest that feelings of lack of control and powerlessness in any aspect of life are related to poor savings behaviors. Powerlessness and loss of control bleeds over until all life decisions are affected by the belief, taught by experiences, that one has no control and no ability to change a personal situation.
Traditionally, those excluded from the financial mainstream have, if they participate in savings at all, joined community or block savings plans. Known by various names, these community savings plans are common in Asia, Africa, and South America, and are known to be riddled with exploitation. Many times the most vulnerable populations, such as women and the disabled, are still excluded from these schemes.
Access Bank in Nigeria is promoting the Family Savings Scheme, which is similar enough to the old idea of community block savings plans that the idea seems familiar. In this plan, however, family groups of four or more have a joint savings account. The accounts are eligible for bonuses, such as savings coupons and giveaways, and credit options such as school fee advances. But most importantly, members of the family are all brought into the financial mainstream and are given access to their own banking accounts when they are members of a Family Savings Scheme.
Nigeria began implementing financial literacy training schemes as part of their commitment to the Maya Declaration in 2014. Their goal at that time was to improve financial inclusion from those currently without access to financial services, currently 46%, down to 20% by 2020. The new education programs include financial literacy training aimed at children and adolescents by providing financial literacy education in basic and senior secondary schools.
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