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FG Launches ‘Aso Accord’ With Support From Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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The federal government has launched ‘Aso Accord’, a financial inclusion initiative which has “received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation”.

Vice-President Kashim Shettima set up an operating model for the programme on Wednesday during a meeting that kicked off the implementation process.

In a statement by Stanley Nkwocha, media aid to the vice-president, Shettima said the project was designed to combat poverty and catalyse sustainable economic growth.

The vice-president said the initiative symbolises the federal government’s commitment to enhancing financial and economic inclusion across Nigeria.

On April 25, the government unveiled the ‘Aso Accord’ on economic and financial inclusion, a multi-pronged blueprint designed to achieve universal access to financial services.

The initiative is said to represent a pillar of the administration’s agenda to transform the nation into a $1 trillion economy by 2030, while combating poverty and insecurity through broad-based prosperity.

Addressing members of the team and other stakeholders at the meeting, Shettima said the idea is to provide access to capital and eradicate poverty through legislative interventions and critical policies.

Shettima said at the heart of every strategy endorsed by the president is the priority of inclusive economic growth and development.

He said the efforts have produced positive outcomes, such as the recent upgrade of Nigeria’s credit outlook to positive by Fitch Ratings.

“While such upgrade by a distinguished institution reflects growing confidence in our economic trajectory, particularly in light of policy changes aimed at easing our debt service burden, we remain mindful of the short-term impacts of these reforms,” he said.

“Hence, we are prioritising measures to mitigate immediate effects, from the student loan act, which democratises access to education, to the relentless efforts of the federal ministry of agriculture and food security in combating food insecurity.”

The senator said because the administration believes its approach to inclusive growth must be strategic and sustainable, economic and financial inclusion has been elevated to the agenda of the National Economic Council (NEC).

He urged members of the implementation team and all stakeholders involved in the initiative to recognise the weight of their responsibility.

“You have been entrusted with a vital national assignment, and I have full confidence that you will bring your best efforts to ensure its success,” he said.

“As we embark on this essential initiative, I call upon each of you to contribute your insights, expertise, and dedication.

“Only through such resolve and discipline can we forge a robust operating model that will drive economic and financial inclusion across our nation, ensuring every Nigerian has the opportunity to thrive.

“I also implore the implementation team to engage all stakeholders fully. There is no greater calling than developing solutions to alleviate the impact of ongoing economic reforms on over 30 million financially excluded Nigerians, propelling Nigeria towards sustainable and inclusive growth.”

‘ACCORD HAS RECEIVED FUNDING FROM BILL & MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION’

In his remarks, Nurudeen Zauro, technical advisor to the president on financial inclusion, acknowledged the role of the vice-president in supporting the signing of the accord and ongoing implementation.

He said discussions on financial inclusion have now reached the highest levels of government, including NEC.

“Since its signing, the operationalisation of the accord has received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the Lagos Business School,” Zauro said.

“We have been setting up the operating model and legal framework to ensure that the project takes off smoothly and is aligned with the Renewed Hope Agenda.

“Working on the team are also Augmentum Advisory, Banwo & Ighodalo, and Ndarani (SAN) & CO.”

Zauro said the team is planning capacity-building initiatives and “high-profile training for permanent secretaries and commissioners of finance to ensure that practical knowledge on financial inclusion would be injected where they are needed.”

Also speaking, Olayinka David-West, project manager at the Lagos Business School (LBS), commended the federal government for putting economic and financial inclusion on the front burner by signing the Aso Accord.

She said the LBS team, working with its counterpart in the vice-president’s office and other stakeholders, is looking at the legal framework for financial inclusion as well as giving the initiative the convening power, and national coordination to drive ownership across the country.

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