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financial inclusion

What banking regulators might be usefully discussing at Capetown

Ignacio Mas's picture

As regulators from across the developing world prepare to gather at the Alliance for Financial Inclusion’s annual Global Policy Forum which will be held in Capetown on 26-28 September, may I offer some thoughts on where we are at in the excellent financial inclusion journey and what is required to take it forward.

Financial inclusion by halves
Half the world is unbanked. In developing countries, half How can we move financial inclusion forward and bring more financial services to the people that need them? (Credit: Austin Yoder, Flickr Creative Commonsof accounts are inactive. And half of the active ones have the equivalent of just a few days of household income. (How do I know this is roughly the picture? I make it a point to throw that into conversations with bankers and mobile money operators, and eyes are cast down. The global Findex survey, though it is silent on account balances, does reveal a large gap between those who say they have an account and those who say they save in it.) Getting banked is hardly a quantum leap for most people in the informal sector.

Why should governments care about improving their payment programs?

Massimo Cirasino's picture

In Portuguese

In Spanish

Regardless of a country’s stage of economic development, their governments make payments to, and collect payments from individuals and businesses. Financial resources are also transferred between government agencies. These flows cover a wide range of economic sectors and activities, and in most cases, the overall amount of such flows is significant – normally ranging between 15% to about 45% of the GDP.Pensioners can benefit from safer, efficient and more transparent payment programs. (Credit: World Bank)

However, only 25% of low-income countries worldwide process cash transfers and social benefits electronically and this percentage is only slightly higher for public sector salaries and pensions—and this has considerable cost implications. By going electronic, governments can save up to 75% on costs, a significant amount in an era of stretched resources.

Nick Kristof on microfinance, banking access and a way out of poverty

Asli Demirgüç-Kunt's picture

In today’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof gives the example of a family in Malawi that improved their lives as the result of a village savings group.  We know that access to banks, cooperatives, and microfinance institutions has allowed many adults like the Nasoni family to safely save for the future, invest in an education or insure against risk, but just how widespread is the use of formal financial products worldwide? How do the barriers to access vary across regions? And how do the unbanked manage their finances?

In the past, the view of financial inclusion around the world had been incomplete. With the release of the Global Financial Inclusion (Global Findex) Database we now have a comprehensive, individual-level, and publicly-available database that allows for comparisons across 148 economies of how adults around the world manage save, borrow, make payments and manage risk. As cited in the article, the Global Findex data shows that more than 2.5 billion adults around the world don’t have a bank account.

Data Makes a Difference in Financial Inclusion

Leora Klapper's picture

These are exciting times in the world of financial inclusion. In the past few years, policymakers and private-sector leaders have made some bold and innovative moves to modernize financial infrastructures and expand financial access. Mobile money products have seen impressive growth in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa; bank agents are expanding access to underserved populations; and governments are increasingly disbursing payments via formal bank accounts.
Nevertheless, large challenges remains in the financial inclusion agenda: 76 percent of adults – almost 500 million people - in Sub-Saharan Africa remain outside the formal financial system and 36% of these unbanked report that having a formal account is too expensive. To continue moving forward we need to assess financial behavior and understand where the challenges and opportunities lie for the future. To do that, we need high-quality, multi-dimensional, comparable financial inclusion data.Savings groups are one of the ways people are saving money (Photo credit: mckaysavage, Flickr Creative Commons)

And so, in April the World Bank Development Research Group released the Global Findex, an individual-level dataset that measures how adults in 148 economies save, borrow, make payments, and manage risk. The Global Findex is just one of the foundations of the G20 Basic Set of Financial Inclusion Indicators that was formally proposed by the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) in Los Cabos this week. 

G20 Summit’s Commitment to Action Will Help Promote Financial Inclusion

Amid the chronic chasm between the world’s wealthy and its excluded, almost half of the adult population worldwide – an estimated 2.5 billion people – lack access to basic financial services. The global economic crisis has intensified the plight of the financially excluded, preventing even more of the world’s poor from gaining a foothold on an important ladder out of poverty.


Counting Financial Inclusion and Debating its Merits

Leora Klapper's picture

Shedding light on and engaging in debate regarding financial inclusion is important and we can now be more informed on the topic thanks to the release last month of the Global Financial Inclusion Database, or Global Findex. With this in mind, I want to react from my point of view as supervisor of the Global Findex project to a recent post by Milford Bateman on The Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog.

Global Findex makes a valuable contribution to our development work, because it means that now researchers and policymakers no longer have to rely on a patchwork of incompatible household surveys and aggregated central bank data for a comprehensive view of the financial inclusion landscape.

It also means debates about financial inclusion can be rooted in more solid facts.

Better Together: The Networked Path to Financial Literacy

Margaret Miller's picture

This post concludes our Closing the Gap: Financial Inclusion blog series, which shares the views of selected experts and practitioners on different financial inclusion topics.

The field of financial literacy and capability has many open questions in terms of priorities, what the most effective interventions are and even basic measurement data and evidence of impact. However, one aspect of this topic where there is growing consensus relates to the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships that leverage both public and private sector actors, as well as civil society.

As in any significant endeavor that attempts to change or reinforce consumer behaviors (encouraging savings, promoting prompt repayment of loans, taking steps to mitigate risk such as diversification of assets or buying insurance) communicating through multiple channels and partners can strengthen the effectiveness of the message. Figure 1 below shows the many types of stakeholders that may be involved in the development of financial literacy and capability programs and policies. These span the gamut from central banks and ministries of finance to commercial banks, microfinance institutions and other providers, schools, religious institutions and media firms.

Cooperative financial institutions – the Missing Bottom?

This post is part of our Closing the Gap: Financial Inclusion blog series, which shares the views of selected experts and practitioners on different financial inclusion topics.

Recent successes in linking lower income clients to the formal banking system via mobile banking and agent solutions have shifted attention away from non-bank deposit taking institutions.  Indeed, the use of modern technology can reduce the costs of service delivery and facilitate the availability of banking services in less densely populated areas. Yet, experience indicates that the roll-out and uptake of these innovative delivery channels is limited by the absence of suitable products and the banking sector’s interest in this market segment.  While banks have started to explore delivering financial services to  lower income segments of the population, these clients are not likely to become their core focus. Same for mobile network operators, who are mostly interested in increasing customer retention rates and offering additional income sources for their agent networks, but do not necessarily focus on providing a range of suitable financial products in a supervised setting. For both players, catering to otherwise unbanked segments of the population is more an add-on, something additional to explore in good times, but – let’s be honest - not a priority during  bad times.

Cooperative Financial Institutions cater to low-income clients in good times, and bad. (Credit: Maciej Dakowicz, Flickr Creative Commons) 	This is why cooperative financial institutions (CFIs) and other forms of member-based deposit taking institutions will continue to be important players in the financial inclusion space. Their market niche is developing suitable products for low to middle-income clients. They usually operate in areas that are otherwise under-banked, and bring added value by collecting deposits and “recycling” these funds through on-lending in the same geographic area. Being savings-based, they depend on the resources of their many poor to middle income clients, and thus have a natural and vital interest in this market segment.  And in contrast to banks, CFIs continue and even expand their services to this market segment in times of crisis: For example, credit unions in the US have increased their membership by 4 million since 2007, while membership in Paraguay surged to 16 percent of the population when the banking sector largely withdrew from retail banking after the 2002 crisis.

Whether weather….and other issues in indexed insurance

This post is part of our Closing the Gap: Financial Inclusion blog series, which shares the views of selected experts and practitioners on different financial inclusion topics.

Crop insurance can improve the lives of farmers, who make up the majority of the world's poor. (Credit: Mukul Soni, Flickr Creative Commons)

How do you insure hundreds of millions of small farmers spread over many developing countries? There is no easy answer. Individual insurance would entail assessing crop yields in millions of farms within the short harvest windows – a virtually impossible task. And even if this were possible, costs would be prohibitive and data quality, a significant issue.

Yet the importance of finding a solution cannot be underestimated. First, farmers make up the majority of the world’s poor. With high dependence on rain-fed cultivation, agriculture is risky. Mitigation of those risks is critical to stabilizing the income of poor farmers. Otherwise, a crop failure could erode savings, lead to inability to service crop loans, push farmers into a vicious debt trap as they are forced to borrow from moneylenders and in extreme cases, lead to starvation or even worse.