By Adedapo Adesanya
Global research firm, Agusto & Co, has forecast that Nigeria’s pension assets will reach N14.8 trillion by the end of 2022.
This is as unpaid pension obligations by some employers, enrolees’ apathy toward the transfer of Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs), and the ability of industry operators to protect the value of pension funds in the face of deteriorating macroeconomic conditions, particularly a weakening exchange rate and soaring inflation, are at the heart of the industry’s current problems.
Agusto noted that in the last decade, the 628 per cent surge in the size of pension fund assets to N14.27 trillion is indicative of the industry’s growth and evolution following legislative support provided by the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2004 and the amendment in 2014.
However, the rising rates of emigration and unemployment in the last five years have slowed down the growth rate in pension contributions. If individuals who fall within these groups, who are eligible to access a 25 per cent lump sum of their pension assets, exercise the withdrawal option, it could cause the growth of assets under management (AuM) to stagnate.
The 3 per cent decline in the industry’s annual contribution remitted to the RSAs in 2021 underlines this growing threat and National Pension Commission (PenCom) approval to use 25 per cent of the amount of a pension contributor’s Retirement Savings Account (RSA) to pay for an equity contribution for a mortgage may lead to a decline in pension AuM in the medium term.
The research firm noted that low yield in investible outlets amid a 17-year high headline inflation rate of 20.52 per cent will lead to a contraction in the real value of AuM over time and implies that pension fund contributors could be worse off in retirement.
It was noted that this would renew interest in diversifying investments into foreign-denominated securities to improve returns and preserve value but warned that the prohibition on PFAs from acquiring foreign currencies directly through official channels might hinder this.
However, Agusto & Co. expects the pension sector to remain robust, given the industry’s strategic importance to the Nigerian economy and the need to align the Nigerian pension scheme more closely with international standards in the near term.
Agusto & Co. also estimates that growth in pension assets will slow from a five-year average of 19 per cent to around 10 per cent in 2022 due to a combination of a muted interest rate environment and a slowdown in the rate of contributions which has been impacted by mass emigration and high unemployment.