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financial inclusion

Risk-taking men, time-constrained women: What gender gaps mean for financial inclusion

Do men and women use financial services differently? This is the question we set out to answer when we conducted six country studies on gender finance in sub- Saharan Africa.

The purpose of our study was twofold. First, we wanted to explore the reasons behind differences in usage of financial products. Second, based on these underlying reasons, we wanted to formulate workable intervention strategies that we could recommend as gender-sensitive financial sector policy approaches for policymakers and stakeholders. The countries we studied included Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia. Based on 50 to 75 interviews per country with individuals from both urban and rural areas, we analysed how and why men and women are using credit, savings and insurance products.

One billion people banked through the post

Image courtesy of UPU

In October 2012, when the first version of the Global Panorama was published, several news agencies and papers wrote: “UN urges increase in role of financial services across global postal sector” or “Posts must exploit untapped potential for financial inclusion”. The surprise was not in the titles but in the interest generated by reports on the postal sector. The intersection between two things which the general public does not automatically associate: the Post and financial services, especially for the poor, seemed to spark interest.

Bring in the tech nerds to help expand financial inclusion

Ignacio Mas's picture

(image: Sean Graham, Flickr Creative Commons)

It has become mainstream to think that digital technologies will have a significant role to play in addressing the financial inclusion challenge in developing countries. This may be so, but if all we in the financial inclusion community do is merely add the mobile phone (or the smart card) to our stock of dearly-held beliefs, we will accomplish little. Technology will not work additively; if technology-based models work it will be because they will have changed pretty much everything. I’m not saying that everything will change: I’m just saying that that should be the bet.

The Gender Gap in Access to Finance

Asli Demirgüç-Kunt's picture

International Women’s Day is when we celebrate the strides made towards equality, but it also reminds us that gender is a powerful determinant of economic opportunities, particularly in developing countries.  Financial inclusion is one of the areas where we observe a gender gap—women in developing economies are still relatively more excluded from the financial sector than men, even after controlling for income and education

For the first time, we can quantify this gap using hard data and evaluate how women around the world save, borrow, make payments and manage risk, both inside and outside the formal financial sector. With the release of the Global Financial Inclusion (Global Findex) data, we now have a comprehensive, individual-level, and publicly-available database that allows for comparisons based on more than 150,000 nationally representative adults in 148 economies in 2011. The dataset includes over 40 indicators, but here we’ll focus on three main categories: account ownership, savings behavior and credit.

Turning the post office into a force for financial inclusion

Isabelle Huynh's picture

photo by: Amortize, Flickr Creative Commons

In the old times, the post office was the main connector between cities and villages, moving letters and money to every corner of the country, and contributing towards the territorial consolidation of states under construction.

Nowadays in developing countries, the post office is often seen as an old, inefficient, deficit-making, and outdated public service which has not been able to keep up with the evolving markets. It takes some imagination to see the post office as a potential engine for economic growth and social inclusion.

How can we cut the high costs of remittances to Africa?

Massimo Cirasino's picture

Read it in French, Spanish or Mandarin.

Migrant workers, earning money in jobs far from home, sent more than $400 billion to their families back home in 2012. Such remittances remain a vital source of income for millions of people in developing countries: Food, housing, education, health care and more are paid for every day by workers who earn money abroad. Through a simple and repetitive transaction – sending money home – those workers are really sending heart-warming feelings like hope for a better future and love of family.

Bill Payment: A Demand-Based Approach to Financial Inclusion

Photo credit: Earl-What I saw 2.0, Flickr Creative CommonsWith over 50% of world’s population lacking proper access to payments and financial services, closing the global gap in the access and the use of payment services remains a challenge. Underdeveloped or missing payment services infrastructure has often resulted in high transaction costs and low penetration of payment services for lower income populations, mainly due to a large number of low value of payment transactions conducted by the underserved segments. This in turn has resulted in the lack of investments in appropriate payments infrastructure to satisfy the payment needs of people at the base of the pyramid. 

The underserved segments have payment needs that are similar to other consumers. Evidence has shown that even very poor people save small amounts, send and receive money from relatives, pay bills and school fees, and borrow from suppliers and others to meet obligations or take advantage of financial opportunities even in the absence of bank access. To satisfy their payment needs, most low income people end up using informal mechanisms that may be convenient but are not safe or efficient. Those who do have marginal access to payment services, usually endure high transaction costs and poor service.

A Global Wave of Financial Inclusion Targets?

Douglas Pearce's picture

Credit: IITA

On October 23, Nigeria joined a fast-growing list of countries making headline commitments to financial inclusion targets and actions,by launching a new Financial Inclusion Strategy. 

A total of 35 countries have now made commitments through the ‘Maya Declaration’ of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (a global network of financial regulators), including 19 as recently as September 2012. 17 countries committed in June 2012 to targets, actions, and coordination platforms through the new G20 Financial Inclusion Peer Learning Program.  These new commitments and targets could have a significant impact in advancing financial inclusion, if the challenges in meeting them can be overcome.

Is Pakistan’s microfinance sector serving women entrepreneurs?

The idea for looking into the issue of microfinance outreach to women in Pakistan had been of interest to the World Bank for some time.  Outreach of the microfinance sector to women borrowers had always been extremely low – hovering between 50 to 60 percent of borrowers.  Compared to the rest of the region, where we see outreach to women in the 90 percent range in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, it raised the question as to why similar targets could not be achieved in Pakistan.   We reviewed a number of  possible explanations, but none of them seemed satisfactory.  On top of that, Pakistan is probably one of the most progressive microfinance sectors in the World.  The central bank has developed the most enabling regulations possible, Pakistan continues to top the Economist Intelligence Unit  list of the most enabling regulatory environment, innovations in branchless banking and new modes of financial service delivery are being incubated here, and the microfinance network in Pakistan continues to be regarded as world class.  So, given all the positive attributes around the sector, why was it not possible to more effectively reach this important constituency? 

Banking on Women in Egypt

Empowering women entrepreneurs is good for development and business. Tune in to World Bank Live on October 11, 2012 10:30 a.m JST. to hear Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and World Bank Group President Jim Kim talk #womenbiz at this year's Annual Meetings.

Research has shown that gender equality makes good business sense, and is key to promoting economic growth. But women continue to be excluded from the economic sphere. This is certainly the case in Egypt, which could use an economic boost in a time of transition—especially as millions of famAccess to finance is changing lives of Egyptian women, and their families for the better. (Credit: World Bank)ilies that rely on the slumping tourism industry are having trouble making ends meet.
Indeed, our research has found that would-be Egyptian women entrepreneurs face many obstacles.  For one, being approved for financing can be a challenge for Egyptian women entrepreneurs. Businesswomen in Egypt are also disadvantaged when it comes to the cost of finance. Banks have stricter collateral requirements for loans to women entrepreneurs, which are perceived as higher-risk. Providing collateral is also an obstacle for many women who are under the guardianship of male relatives and unable to independently manage their assets.


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