Nigeria’s digital economy will flourish when providers of financial services create innovative and inclusive products for the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) as well as the retail market, the Executive Director of Financial Services Innovators (FSI), Aituaz Kola-Oladejo, has said.

According to a statement issued by FSI, yesterday, this will solve the country’s social and economic problems, as both are interconnected.

Kola-Oladejo noted that FSI is partnering with the Federal University of Technology, Minna (FUTMINNA), Niger State, to host a hackathon in northern Nigeria to foster innovation and promote the development of inclusive financial solutions in that region.

Themed ‘Include Me’, the FSI/FUTMINNA innovation challenge, which aimed at proffering simple and seamless inclusive financial solutions for MSMEs, with a focus on the banking and insurance services sectors, would run, virtually and physically, from March 9 to 11, 2022 at FUTMINNA.

Registration, which has opened since Friday, January 28, will end on Wednesday, February 16 at 11:59 pm.

“We decided to partner with FUTMINNA to proffer solutions to these challenges through students, who see them daily,” Kola-Oladejo added.

According to the statement, many businesses in northern Nigeria were digitally and financially excluded, transacting daily in cash, as some of the solutions in the market are either too sophisticated for their needs or that there are huge barriers to access the solutions.

“This hackathon will create employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for tech talents in Nigeria. The challenge is also open to students in any tertiary institution,” it stated.

FSI said research put the number of micro-enterprises in the North to over 15 million.

“According to a report from Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA) in 2021, there are more financially excluded people in northern Nigeria than in the southern part. The drawbacks include the concern for safety, access to funds when required, and the cost of financial services.

“The MSMEs, especially the micro sector’s potential for expansion, are under-exploited, given the financing gap, as many of them raise funds through informal means,” it noted.

FSI added that MSMEs should be able to access financial services, irrespective of their location, size of business, and level of literacy towards achieving a digital economy.

“The barriers MSMEs have in accessing financial services and transacting in the same digital environment should be reduced to the barest minimum, given the level of growth of the digital economy in Nigeria.

“Hence, financial services providers should begin to deploy innovative solutions adaptable to the peculiarities of this customer segment,” FSI stated.