In a groundbreaking event, the pro-poor advocacy platform, Inclusion for All (I4ALL), joined forces with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to present a revealing research study. The research shed light on the obstacles confronting female agricultural communities in Nigeria who lack a digital identity (ID) or enrollment for the National Identification Number (NIN). These challenges were found to significantly impact their livelihoods and financial opportunities.
Titled “Access to Identity, Empowerment, Livelihood, and Financial Inclusion of Rural Female Agricultural Workers and Traders in Nigeria,” the research was officially unveiled during the inaugural “Inclusion for All Dialogues” event on July 26th. The event focused on the theme “Digital ID for the Last Mile – Enabling Access to Digital ID for Rural Female Agricultural Workers” and convened various stakeholders to discuss and address the digital inclusion barriers faced by women in Nigeria’s agricultural value chain.
I4ALL’s primary objective is to leverage data evidence to better understand the struggles of impoverished populations and collaborate with stakeholders to advocate for their removal. The ultimate goal is to promote increased ownership and usage of digital financial services among the most excluded groups, thereby reducing financial exclusion nationwide.
The event featured distinguished panelists, including Professor Janice Olawoye from IITA, Dr. Osasuyi Dirisu from the Policy Innovation Centre (PIC), Ms. Uche Chigbo from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), and Dr. Paul Oluikpe from the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Financial Inclusion Delivery Unit. These experts engaged in insightful discussions about the supply and demand side barriers to digital ID ownership for rural female agricultural workers and explored strategies to foster their economic inclusion through technology.
The event also saw the presence of notable personalities from various State Governments, demonstrating the widespread importance and support for the cause.
Chinasa Collins-Ogbuo, the convener and head of Inclusion for All, highlighted the event’s significance, stating, “Our aim is to cultivate a strategic platform of cross-cutting actors with a shared goal to uncover the links that exist between income level, identity ownership, and financial inclusion in order to identify opportunities to accelerate the pace of digital financial inclusion.”
Engr. Aliyu Aziz, the Director General of NIMC, delivered the keynote address, emphasizing the progress made in NIN enrollment in Nigeria, the challenges faced, and potential approaches to overcome them. Engr. Aziz underscored the importance of data evidence in shaping policies and revealed key findings from the research report. He emphasized the persistent gender gap in enrollment, with only 44% of registered individuals being females, despite women outnumbering men. Engr. Aziz also highlighted actionable steps taken by NIMC based on advice from I4ALL, which has significant implications for the national ID project.
During the event, Zaina Sore, Head of Capacity Development at IITA, presented the findings from the targeted research study. She emphasized the critical role of digital identity in empowering rural female agricultural workers and transforming their livelihoods. Sore stressed the importance of understanding the needs and challenges faced by these women to tailor services that promote greater inclusion and economic empowerment.
The research, commissioned by I4ALL and conducted by IITA in Kano, Oyo, and Rivers States, revealed new insights and validated pre-existing data. Surprisingly, Kano State recorded higher levels of NIN ownership (77%) among respondent groups compared to Oyo (58.1%) and Rivers (46.6%), contradicting the hypothesis of lower enrolment rates in the North. The research also highlighted socio-cultural norms as a deliberate strategy to drive female enrollment in the North. Barriers to NIN enrollment included transportation costs, distance from enrollment centers, and tedious enrolment processes.
Chinasa Collins-Ogbuo emphasized the need for intentional efforts to ensure universal access to formal identification, especially for vulnerable populations like poor female farmers in rural communities. She called for specific and targeted approaches to reach these communities successfully and leave no one behind.
The research findings reinforced the importance of inclusive enrollment strategies, as the poorest and most marginalized populations stand to gain the most from government and financial services enabled by inclusion. Collaboration among public, private, and grassroots stakeholders was stressed as vital to achieving NIMC’s ambitious enrolment targets and creating a truly inclusive society.
Chinasa Collins-Ogbuo reiterated I4ALL’s commitment to fostering financial inclusion for all Nigerians and pledged to continue working tirelessly with partners, stakeholders, and policymakers to address the pressing challenges highlighted by the research.