Successfully implementing the National Data Strategy 2022, e-Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System (“eCVRS”), and a single nationally integrated data ecosystem will help fintech services and valuation in Nigeria.
National Data Strategy 2022 (“NDS”) acknowledged that data-driven economic growth is challenged by data utility and data protection, and participants in the digital economy face chronic trust deficits, insecurity, safety, and privacy breaches.
The NDS which preceded the National Data Protection Act 2023, noted that data utility can spur innovations and enable social and economic growth. In contrast, data protection ensures that personal or sensitive data are secured, and citizens’ privacy is protected.
Maximizing data for the digital economy depends on how well Nigeria manages the fork created by data utility, data protection, and an integrated national data ecosystem.
Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, is not short on legislation and policies to lead Africa into the promised land of the digital economy.
Such legislation, policies, and agencies include:
- National Data Protection Act 2023
- National Data Protection Commission
- National Data Strategy 2022
- National Information Technology Development Act
- National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA)
- National Identity Management Commission Act 2007 (“NIMC Act”).
- Mandatory Use of the National Identification Number Regulations, 2017.
- Nigeria Biometrics Standards Regulations, 2017.
- Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the army of government advisers on digital economy
- National Financial Inclusion Strategy (Revised) 2018
- National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (2020-2030)
- Central Bank of Nigeria’s regulatory frameworks on digital payments systems, and others.
This commentary limits our scope to how a well implemented NDS and eCVRS deepens fintech service and financial inclusion. Our opinion is that intelligent data from a functional eCVRS and integrated national data ecosystem is crucial to fintech services in Nigeria.
Trust Deficit on Government Statistics
According to Ana Paula Cusolito, et al. digital infrastructure, digital payment systems, and regulatory framework for e-commerce are the essential pillars of a digital economy. Nigeria must address these critical tripods to enable fintech companies scale and rank equally with Egypt, South-Africa, and Kenya.
While Nigeria’s Central Bank seems to be taking proactive steps to establish robust digital payment systems driven by Fintech, a regulatory framework for e-commerce and digital infrastructure is mainly undeveloped.
TheGuardian reported that active mobile phone voice subscription was 221.2 million by the end of May 2023, and tele density stood at 115.91 in the same month.
Nairametrics claimed that Nigeria’s number of active bank accounts increased to 133.5 million in 2021. The number of Nigerians captured on the National Identity Management Commission’s National Identity Number (NIN) portal was 22.4 million.
The 22.4 million include non-Nigerians from across the borders – who are not recognized under the NIMC Act 2007, and active bank accounts include business entities, whether for-profit or non-profit – any business that launches products or services based on government statistics is up for a hard lesson.
An average Nigerian has at least two bank accounts. OPAY, Palmpay, Flutterwave, Paystack, Kuda, PayCentre Afrcia, and others may not have significantly captured the unbanked or underbanked.
Although the PSB (Payment service Banks) are designed to capture at least 25% of Nigeria’s rural areas, given the CBN’s prudential and regulatory weak links, PSB tend to focus on existing markets.
Consider the apparent disparity between Nigeria’s registered NIN and active mobile phone voice subscription rate. We submit that an average Nigerian and business has at least two mobile lines, or SIMS and tele density is as misleading as the rest of governments statistics.
eCVRS and Financial Inclusion
Departing from the argument on why Nigerian Fintech lags Egypt, South Africa, and Kenya in funding in H1 2023, we submit that the absence of critical real and digital infrastructure affects Fintech services and products in many ways.
BusinessDay shows that Egypt led Africa’s Fintech valuation pack at $402 million in seven deals, South Africa second at $304 million in eleven deals, Kenya third at $304 million in thirteen deals, and Nigeria fourth at $90 million in a whopping thirty-one deals.
We noted that NIN holders may include non-Nigerians who are registrable persons under the NIMC Act. Although NIN is required to access financial services unbundled under tier-3 KYC (Know-Your-Customer) and other services listed under the NIMC Act and the Mandatory Use of the National Identification Number Regulations, 2017, NIN is not yet linked to birth registration and other vital civil registrations.
Nigerian governments at the Local, State, and Federal levels must pull themselves together and deliver on critical real infrastructure that complements the digital infrastructure which unlocks benefits of the digital economy.
Yet, governments and businesses that include Fintech depend on demography, gender, tele density, mobile phone subscription, active bank accounts, marriage rates, and other vital statistics.
We argued on ResearchGate that a nationally integrated birth, marriage, dissolution, stillbirth, adoption, and death register is Nigeria’s soft infrastructure for its digital identity ecosystem – critical national digital economy strategy drivers.
Our argument preceded Nigeria’s launch of the eCVRS, and our views are yet to change. Pending the adoption of the eCVRS, Nigeria’s civil registers are fragmented across its seven hundred and seventy-four local governments, with quarterly updates from each registrar at the local government council to the State deputy chief registrar, and the State deputy chief registrar bi-annually updates the registrar‐general in Abuja..
Implementing eCVRS to achieve minimum data trust requires a multi-sectoral approach. It involves a handshake among NIMC, NPC, Ministry of Interiors, and local government councils.
Although leading Fintech in Nigeria are not indigenous Nigerian companies but subsidiaries of foreign companies, attracting investors is difficult for start-ups for reasons ranging from poor governance, risks, infrastructure, and data trust deficit to poor access to statistical data.
Nigerian governments spend huge public funds dancing to the World Forum cap-in-hand, asking investors to invest in Nigeria. It is a mere caricature as Nigeria’s current ranking on the World Economic Governance Index is horrifying: 40.8 for the rule of law, 30.9 for press freedom, 52.1 for political rights, and 53.5 for corruption..
BusinessDay reported that Countries with less than 100 scores are rated poor. In contrast, countries above 100 are rated high regarding governance indicators.
The World Economic Governance report flags Nigeria as a “do not invest in” country because of poor governance that can cost investors billions and expose investors to legal and political troubles – a clear signal to the federal government unless they are marketing Nigeria to entities with questionable corporate reputation.
Nigerian governments’ addressing critical real and digital infrastructure will not only aid Fintech services, products, and valuation, but install Nigeria on the fast lane that investors travel to any target investment Country.
Achieving real and digital infrastructure requires a credible electoral process, political will, cost-saving sensibilities, accountability, and open governance.
 (1) (PDF) DIGITAL IDENTITY ECOSYSTEM AND INTEGRATED BIRTH MARRIAGE AND DEATH REGISTERS. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/373707263_DIGITAL_IDENTITY_ECOSYSTEM_AND_INTEGRATED_BIRTH_MARRIAGE_AND_DEATH_REGISTERS#fullTextFileContent [accessed Nov 22Nov 22, 2023].
 BusinessDay <https://businessday.ng/big-read/article/why-nigeria-isnt-among-investors-favourite-destinations/#:~:text=Nigeria%20has%20ranked%20among%20the,latest%20World%20Economic%20Governance%20Index.> accessed on Nov 22Nov 22, 2023.