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April 2012

Take the Blue Line to social resilience

Margaret Arnold's picture

Ever wonder what the subway map of Seoul, Korea has to do with social resilience? A group of policy makers, insurance experts and development practitioners wondered the same thing as they mapped risk management strategies and political economy issues onto the subway line maps of different cities. While it seemed absurd, the exercise forced them to think about connections and relationships they may not have considered before.   The exercise was part of a retreat recently held at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center to advance a study led by the Social Resilience Cluster on Financial Innovations for Social and Climate Resilience (FISCR). The FISCR initiative is assessing the impacts of index insurance on the welfare and risk management strategies of poor households (for more details on the study, see here).

The format and structure of the Bellagio retreat and was co-designed by the Bank team and by faculty and a student from the trans-disciplinary design program of Parsons the New School for Design. The study team’s partnership with Parsons is a key innovation that integrates design thinking throughout the study’s design, implementation, and dissemination in order to increase its impact. Index insurance and social resilience are complex topics that are challenging to communicate. Working with designers from the beginning of the study allows us to view the issues in different ways and consider the ways to engage and empower the target audience throughout the entire process of the study. 

The FISCR study is unusual as well in that it examines insurance through a social lens. Index insurance schemes (mainly targeting poor farmers and in a couple of cases herders) have been piloted in a number of countries for more than 10 years now, as a way to help the poor protect their livelihoods.  Its proponents speak of great promise: engaging the private sector in the protecting the assets of the poor from climate shocks; enabling the poor to make more productive investments, and encouraging investments in disaster prevention. With these promises, index insurance and other market-based risk financing mechanisms have received a great deal of attention in the global discussion on adaptation financing, including the possibility of developing a climate risk insurance facility (see related Cancun agreement).

Mass retail banking: How savings banks in Africa, Asia and Latin America can provide usable services to the poor

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.

WSBI works with savings banks in the developing world to increase the number of savings accounts for the poor. The ten participating banks are KPOSB Kenya, LPB Lesotho, PBU Uganda, SAPB South Africa, Al Barid Bank Morocco, Sistema Fedécredito El Salvador, Sonapost Burkina Faso, TPB Tanzania, Bank BTN Indonesia, and VPSC Vietnam. We recently surveyed the progress of eight of these ten banks and the results are promising.

Savings banks are making a difference in the lives of people around the globe. (Credit: WSBI)We've found that the poor are not so different in their needs than the mass market of which they constitute the largest part. The mass retail banking model to which most WSBI members aspire provides services that encapsulate the needs of poorer markets. In short, universal is pro-poor, but this will only be accepted when savings banks demonstrate increased use of their products and services by the poor. Affordability is, of course, key, and it can be achieved even when customers are poor rural householders, but only by shifting the transaction mix from cash to electronic.

Is patriarchy on the rise?

Nadereh Chamlou's picture
Last Spring, I wrote a about the rise of conservatism among 15-35 year old men in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) despite higher education and better connectedness to the world than the previous generation.  The level of conservatism was measured by the number of objections toward women working outside their home: based on a 2008/09 survey of 40,000 individuals in Amman, Cairo, and Sana’a across income, age, and educational groups, over 40 percent of young men objected.  I then asked whether, voting and voter preference would help advance women’s rights.

Mexico’s G-20 Presidential Agenda on Financial Inclusion

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.

Read this post in Spanish.

Recognizing this challenge, G20 Leaders created in September of 2009 an expert group to discuss key issues related to financial innovation and the financing of Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME). As the basis of a concrete action plan to improve access to financial services, this expert group developed nine Principles for Innovative Financial Inclusion. In order to formalize and give continuity to those principles, the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) was created in December 2010. The Partnership brings together a broader group of G20 and non-G20 countries, along with other stakeholders. The result is an institutional structure that actively participates in the work of financial inclusion.

As shown by projects in countries like Afghanistan, financial inclusion is a global priority. (Credit: IMTFI, Flickr)In its capacity as President of the G20, Mexico has made strengthening the financial system and fostering financial inclusion a high priority. When you consider the coordinated efforts we have seen recently, the impact of inclusive financial systems on both economic activity and vulnerable groups, and the effects of the financial crisis on our financial systems, it is clear to see the importance of financial inclusion.

International Trade Can Help Africa Grow

Daniel Lederman's picture

Africa tradeOptimism about Africa’s future is no longer scarce. The continent’s growth has been exemplary in recent years. Yet it is just as easy to find signs of distrust in the global economy. 

Multilateral agencies insist that international integration offers opportunities for accelerating economic growth. Official parlance has become tame since the heyday of structural reforms in the early 1990s, but they have found subtle ways to argue that trade is good. The World Bank recently launched “Defragmenting Africa,” providing an exhaustive and exhausting list of policies to increase international trade within the continent. 

Unsurprisingly the prescriptions can be costly. Removing import taxes might improve economic efficiency and enhance consumer welfare, but revenues can fall in countries with limited public resources. Although Africa harbors some of the highest trade taxes in the world (World Development Report 2009), the point is that there are tradeoffs. The same applies to policies that entail investments in infrastructure for “trade facilitation.” 

What would Africa get in return? 

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Mobile Media Toolkit
A Profound Media Shift in the Arab World

“A report from the Center for International Media Assistance analyzes the growth of digital media in the Arab region.

A new report from the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) highlights a profound media shift happening in the Arab world. Amidst continued repression and threats to free expression, both online and offline, this year saw tens of millions of individuals and news outlets using social and digital media tools to capture and share events. The full report is available here: Digital Media in the Arab World One Year After the Revolutions.”   READ MORE

The Global Findex: The first database tracking how adults use financial services around the world

Asli Demirgüç-Kunt's picture

The post orginally appeared on All About Finance.

The facts are in. 50 percent of adults worldwide have an account at a formal financial institution. 21 percent of women save using a formal account. 16 percent of adults in Sub-Saharan Africa use mobile money. These are just a few of the thousands of data points now available in the Global Financial Inclusion (Global Findex) database, the first of its kind to measure people’s use of financial products across economies and over time.