Jan 24, 2014

REPORT: LOCAL LANGUAGES TO PROMOTE FINANCIAL LITERACY by Peter Akindele

‘FINANCIAL Literacy’, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, financial literacy is defined as: “Knowledge and understanding of financial concepts, and the skills, motivation and confidence to apply such knowledge and understanding in order to make effective decisions across a range of financial contexts, to improve the financial well-being of individuals and society, and to enable participation in economic life.” With this definition, I will explore the different methods of using local languages to promote financial literacy in Nigeria. I believe that the main purpose of financial literacy is to ameliorate the economy in Nigeria.


There are hundreds of local languages spoken throughout Nigeria, the eight most widely spoken being English, Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Ibibio, Kanuri, Edo and Fulfulde. Considering how Nigeria was formed of these different tribes, there are subtle cultural differences between them. These differences must be taken into consideration as they would reflect on the attitudes of the people and their way of communicating. This then poses the question: “Should we use local languages in the first place, or use a universal language to educate the people?” This is an interesting question as there are multiple sides to this metaphoric coin. Although, the use of a universal language i.e. English, would mean that educating the masses would be far simpler as there could be seminars held in a location that is suitable for all people to attend; the person leading the seminar would also only need to be able to speak English in order to communicate with the entire audience.

However, this method may not necessarily work. Using a generic language requires those who are not familiar with this language to have to learn it and be educated in it. This is a sufficient method for young children, provided they have suitable teachers; however it does not cater for adults. One’s ability to learn a language diminishes as one grows older. The technical terms that are used in such a matter are far more difficult for a non-native speaker to have to learn.

We must not assume that those who are educated are financially literate. There may well be people that have fantastic jobs that are not aware of how to maintain their income and how to save properly. Being financially literate is not only understanding how the economy works, but also knowing how to manage one’s own personal finance.

There is a correlation between financial literacy and financial inclusion: those who are financially illiterate would also be financially excluded. As of 2010, 46.3 per cent of Nigerian adults were financially excluded. This is almost half of Nigeria’s adult population; as a result, the percentage of financially literate adults is bound to be low. In order to promote financial literacy, we must first address those who are financially excluded. It is my belief that the majority of those who are financially excluded live in the more rural parts of the country. Out of Nigeria’s 163 million people, 49 per cent of them are living in rural parts of the country.   

The majority of these people would be uneducated and are either not aware of the support that a bank can provide them with; or simply live too far away from the nearest bank.  A way to tackle this would be to create small branches in nearby towns and subsequently send teams to the individual villages where the majority of the financially excluded live.
    
Using local languages puts the people at an advantage. The topic specific words are far simpler to comprehend in one’s own language, as it does not require one to have already mastered the foreign language. The main goal is to make the people financially literate; therefore using their local languages would be the most sensible method of doing so in this instance.

By holding seminars in rural towns and villages, we will be able to create awareness for the inhabitants whilst communicating with them in their own regional dialects. A new form of education could be instated by Central Bank. As teenagers are going to be the next generation of people who impact the economy, making them financially literate would have a great effect. The communications department could create a team of teachers to travel to local village schools, where they can educate the pupils in their own language. Bearing in mind that many students will not necessarily see the need for financial literacy at their age, there are particular methods that should be used, which teenagers will find relevant and engaging. Visual presentations could be developed to give them a basic understanding of financial education. Board games similar to the likes of Monopoly, that teach the value of saving, could be introduced in order to provide the children with an understanding that they could then translate into their own financial standings when they become young adults.

The largest part of Nigeria’s exports, aside from oil, is Nigeria’s agricultural products. Therefore, it is essential that the farmers are aware of how to manage their finances properly. However, many farmers are financially excluded and are not utilising their assets properly. The Central Bank could set up miniature farmer’s business schools that teach farmers more agronomic methods on how to grow their crops. The cost needed to train a farmer on how to manage their finances and how to harvest in the most efficient manner is a mere N3000 per farmer. Alternatively, CBN could host an outreach programme in which they have several teams that accumulate farmers in the local areas and run workshops and hold lectures on how to become financially literate. As most farmers that live in the rural areas of Nigeria would not have a grasp of the English language, the best alternative is for these teams to be fluent in the local language of the area. The benefits of this method are that the farmers would feel far more comfortable being able to relate with the CBN staff in their own language; moreover, as there would be a group of farmers from the same area, there would be a level of understanding amongst them which would enable them to learn more effectively. 
    
According to Africa Finance Forum, the most financially excluded people in Africa are the women. In order to tackle this issue, we could create workshops in the markets of more rural towns in order to develop the financial literacy of the women. Nigeria is primarily a cash based economy. If CBN were able to create small teams to promote the use of debit and credit cards, this would automatically increase financial literacy, as the people would have to know how to use their accounts, and in turn financial inclusion. The small scale seminars would have to be held by someone who has a strong grasp on the native language of the area in order to ensure that all of the women receive the valid information necessary to become more financially literate. Giving women a sense of financial importance within our modern society promotes their sense of financial confidence, thus including more women along with their personal, as well as business ventures and projects, within the financially literate sector of our nation.   

In conclusion, it is evident that there is a lack of financial literacy amongst a large proportion of the Nigerian population. But the CBN is in a position to create awareness of the issue to those most affected. To do this, one must address the aforementioned parts of society in the local language, in order to ensure that the target group feel comfortable and do not feel that they are being oppressed by a foreign language.  This contributes to the elimination of financial illiteracy, and promotes a more healthy and profitable relationship between the marginalised, and the financial sector of this nation. 

• Akindele is a 16 year-old student at African Leadership Academy. He recently won the Sylvia Trott Prize for Languages for his achievements in foreign languages, gaining A*A*A*A in Japanese, French, Spanish and Mandarin respectively.  He has been nominated to receive the Lord Lexden Academic Achievement Award at the House of Lords in March 2014.
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