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financial inclusion

African leaders committed to building a digital economy

Ceyla Pazarbasioglu's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français
Mbarak Mbigo helps his colleagues who are software developers at Andela, in Nairobi, Kenya. © Dominic Chavez/IFC


We only have to look at the way we communicate, shop, travel, work and entertain ourselves to understand how technology has drastically changed every aspect of life and business in the last 10 years.

Technology-driven changes are radically transforming the world and enabling developing countries to leapfrog decades of “traditional” industrial development. But disruptive technology also increases the stakes for countries, which cannot afford to be left behind.

Sub-Saharan Africa demonstrated its capacity to harness technology when it embraced the mobile telecom revolution in the 2000s. Now again, there is huge potential for digital impact in Africa. But to achieve that, the five foundations of a digital economy need to be in place - digital infrastructure, literacy and skills, financial services, platforms, and digital entrepreneurship and innovation.

The gender gap in financial inclusion won’t budge. Here are three ways to shrink it

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français
Marie Hortense Raharimalala visiting a bank agent in Antananarivo, Madagascar. A biometric fingerprint is used for identification. © Nyani Quarmyne/International Finance Corporation
Marie Hortense Raharimalala visiting a bank agent in Antananarivo, Madagascar. A biometric fingerprint is used for identification. © Nyani Quarmyne/International Finance Corporation


I opened my first bank account as a new student at the London School of Economics in 1987. This seemingly small act meant that I could manage my own finances, spend my own money, and make my own financial decisions. It meant freedom to decide for myself.

That financial freedom is still elusive to 980 million women around the world. And, worryingly, this does not seem to be improving. Our Global Findex database shows that while more and more women are opening bank accounts, a global gender gap of 7 percentage points still exists—and it has not moved since 2011.

There are some bright spots. In Bolivia, Cambodia, the Russian Federation, and South Africa, for example, account ownership is equal for men and women. And in Argentina, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the gap we see at the global level is reversed—women have more accounts than men. 

But there are also some very troubling, and persistent gaps. The same countries that had gender gaps in 2011 generally have them today. In Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Turkey, the gap in account ownership between men and women is almost 30 percentage points. Morocco, Mozambique, Peru, Rwanda, and Zambia also have double-digit differences between men and women.

One of the main reasons that both men and women cite for not having a financial account is that they simply are not earning enough to open one. We need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to work, earn, and participate in his or her economy. This is at the core of our work at the World Bank Group, especially as we look at the skills people will need for the jobs of the future.

But there are some reasons that keep women specifically from opening accounts. The gender gap in financial inclusion can be traced back step by step through unequal opportunities, laws, and regulations that put an extra barrier on women’s ability to even open that simple bank account.

Countries have to do better in unraveling the complicated web that women face when they try to do something that for a man, is quite simple. How can we level it up? Let me suggest three things as a start: 

Women and finance: unlocking new sources of economic growth

Ceyla Pazarbasioglu's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español


From basic financial services to board rooms, strengthening women’s role in finance is one of the keys to boosting economic growth.

In every country, women and men alike need access to finance so that they can invest in their families and businesses.  But today, 42% of women worldwide – about 1.1 billion – remain outside of the formal financial system, without a bank account or other basic tools to manage their money.   
 

Digital financial inclusion: what works and what’s next

Kristalina Georgieva's picture


Over one billion women in the world do not have access to financial services. Having access to a transaction account is a first step for financial freedom and for women to take charge of their lives. 

Women are an underutilized resource in development. Not having access prevents women from having an equal footing in society. Financial inclusion can unleash enormous potential for economic development.

The World Bank’s World Development Report on gender estimated income losses due to women being excluded from the world of work at 10%-37% of GDP across all regions. Research by the World Bank Group, the IMF, the OECD, and private sector studies show that billions can be added to global GDP by advancing women's equality. 

Digital technologies are extending access to finance to millions of people, including women. This is incredibly exciting and the world is placing high stakes on digital technologies as a principal way to bring the 2 billion unbanked adults into the formal and regulated financial system.

It’s much easier today to save, make payments, access credit, and obtain insurance, all of which helps people manage day-to-day expenses, make long-term plans and handle unexpected emergencies.

In 2016, the G20 issued a report led by the World Bank Group and the People’s Bank of China – the High Level Principles for Digital Financial Inclusion - which provided eight recommendations for countries to encourage financial inclusion through digital technologies. A few weeks ago, the G20 finance ministers endorsed a follow-up report which profiles what countries have done in line with these recommendations.

Financial inclusion for displaced people yields societal and economic benefits for all

Ceyla Pazarbasioglu's picture
Also available in: Français



Sixty-five million people worldwide are displaced by conflict and war.

Developing countries host 95% of them

Displaced people need help. But so do their host communities, which face enormous sudden pressures on their infrastructure, public services and markets. These pressures have the potential to undermine political stability.

This is why international development institutions are rethinking how to approach humanitarian crises, and no longer consider humanitarian assistance and development interventions as two separate, sequential responses. We, at the World Bank, have been ramping up our support to both people and communities affected by fragility, conflict and violence as well as disaster risk, which can exacerbate instability.

Being able to provide quality financial services before, during and after periods of humanitarian crises can improve people’s resilience and help sustain livelihoods. 

Vietnam’s financial inclusion priorities: Expanding financial services and moving to a ‘non-cash’ economy

Ceyla Pazarbasioglu's picture



 Also available in: Tiếng Việt

It’s nighttime and the streets are bustling in Vietnam’s cities and towns. Buoyed by years of strong growth, the country has a burgeoning middle class with purchasing power to sustain restaurants and cafes, full and open late into the night, busy retailers and a high penetration of mobile phones – more than one per person. The economy, however, continues to run on cash and a majority of adults still don’t have formal financial services such as a basic transaction account. Moving to a “non-cash” system is a priority for the government to increase efficiency, promote business and economic development and reduce poverty including in remote rural areas where traditional financial providers have difficulty reaching.

Since 2016 the State Bank of Vietnam, the country’s central bank, has been partnering with the World Bank Group on a comprehensive approach to financial inclusion which will result in a national financial inclusion strategy. While still in development, several key elements of the strategy are clear: a focus on digital finance including shifts in government payments to digital products and platforms; providing financial services to rural and agricultural communities and ethnic minorities, where growth has lagged and poverty rates are above the national average; and strengthening consumer protection and financial education so that the next generation of consumers are prepared for a modern financial marketplace.

Empowering Women in the World

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
Also available in: 中文

© Binyam Teshome/World Bank

When women do well, everyone benefits. Giving women access to better jobs and financial security are keys to ending poverty. Gender gaps harm the entire economy. We know that when women control the finances, they tend to spend money on the things that matter most – essential food and water, school fees and health care for the family. It’s amazing what small changes can do – a mobile money account opens up the ability to get small loans, buy insurance, and make payments. The World Bank is working to empower women around the world, supporting women entrepreneurs in Pakistan and supporting women and their families with cash cards in Lebanon.

Envisioning the global financial system in a decade

Gloria M. Grandolini's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | 中文


4 unprecedented disruptions to the global financial system


Climate change, migration, correspondent banking and cybercrime are putting unprecedented and unforeseen pressures on global financial markets.

They aren’t just disrupting the global financial system, but also affect how we approach international development work.

Let’s examine each trend:
  1. “Greening the financial sector” is the new buzz term to finance a transition toward a climate-resilient economy and to help combat climate change. This topic is now getting a lot of attention from the G20 to the Financial Stability Board. The international community is trying to understand what this transition will imply: how resilient the financial sector is to deal with risks stemming from climate change, and how efficiently the financial sector can allocate financial resources. What we know is that currently fossil fuel subsidies and a lack of carbon tax are hindering the market from shifting financial resources from brown to green.
  2. Globally, an estimated 65 million people are forcibly displaced. Migration, resettlement or displacement, of course, impact where and how to channel aid to those in need. But more importantly, as displaced people settle down -- no matter how temporary or long-term -- to become self-sufficient and thrive, they will need to establish new financial relations. This can be for simple transactions such as receiving aid through payment cards (as opposed to cash) or for sending remittances. Or it can be for something more complex as getting a loan to start a business.
  3. At the same time, as the global banking industry is tightening regulations, large banks are withdrawing from correspondent banking and shutting down commercially unsustainable business lines. This recent phenomenon can have a huge impact in some regions on SMEs and on money transfer operators, which largely handle remittances.
  4. Cybercrime is no longer a sci-fi thriller plot, but a tangible potential risk to both national and international financial markets. The focus on cybersecurity risk has increased along with the proliferation of internet and information technology. Fintech is transforming the financial industry -- by extending access to financial services to people and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) previously left out of the formal financial system – but is also raising many questions, including concerns about cybersecurity. The same technology advancements that are propelling fintech are also addressing cybersecurity risk. However, there is a need to develop an appropriate regulatory framework in combination with industry best practices. This framework is evolving and regulators are grappling with how and when to regulate.

Powerful panel weighs progress on financial inclusion

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: Русский
Event Replay


Government leaders and advocates came together during the Annual Meetings to discuss a major development goal – ensuring everyone has access to affordable financial services such as a bank or mobile money account. While a lot of progress has been made on “financial inclusion,” new rules affecting the flow of funds threatens to slow or even reverse some gains.

Financial Inclusion not Exclusion: Managing De-Risking brought together Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Zhou Xiaochuan, Governor of the People’s Bank of China, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Indonesia’s Minister of Finance. Arun Jaitley, India’s Minister of Finance, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, and Juan Manuel Vega-Serrano, the president of the Financial Action Tax Force (FATF), which sets international standards for  combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats.

Some 700 million people were brought into the formal financial system between 2011 and 2014 – a major success – but 2 billion people remain cut off, said Queen Máxima, who is the United Nations Secretary-General’s special advocate for inclusive finance for development.

A new challenge to financial inclusion is a trend toward “de-risking” by banks. Many larger banks are increasingly terminating or restricting business relationships with remittance companies and smaller local banks in certain regions of the world. De-risking has therefore made money transfers more difficult for migrant workers and humanitarian organizations working in war-torn places.

4 actions for Mexico to fast-track progress toward financial inclusion

Gloria M. Grandolini's picture
Also available in: Español
A girl with a bankcard in Mexico. Photo: Alberto Canche/ World Bank

Last month, I traveled to Mexico to attend the launch of the country’s national financial inclusion policy.

The launch was an important milestone for the country, since just 44% of adults have access to a financial account, according to Mexico’s latest national survey on financial inclusion. The policy outlines a vision of how to extend access to formal financial services to the unbanked half of the population, and provides a roadmap for how to get there.

Worldwide, there are 2 billion unbanked adults and the international development community considers financial inclusion necessary to reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

Mexico accounts for 2.6% of that global number.  The country is also among the 25 countries the World Bank Group and partners have prioritized in the Universal Financial Access by 2020 initiative. The goal of this initiative is to enable access to a transaction account to store money, and send and receive payments by adults who are not a part of the formal financial system.

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