As World Bank staff working on financial inclusion, our days revolve around a critical question: what are the most promising ways to improve access to and usage of appropriate financial products for the underserved? A big part of our job is to track the wide range of experiences and learnings from around the world and incorporate them into our work advising policymakers and regulators. We thought it would be useful to share our current thinking, distilled into a list of the top eight approaches to accelerate financial inclusion. This list is from a policymaker perspective, and takes into account the fact that policymakers play a multi-faceted role in financial inclusion, balancing promotion, protection and stability.
First, two caveats. This is subjective list, drawn from our experience. We expect reasonable people to disagree with some of our choices and that’s OK – in fact, debate is welcome.
Second, country context plays a critical role in formulating appropriate approaches to financial inclusion. This list is meant as a general guide for what is impactful in most countries, most of the time.
Geographical location, important seaports, and airports are factors facilitating international trade in the Arab Republic of Egypt. The country’s natural access to sea routes through the Mediterranean and Red Seas offers considerable potential for increasing export participation. As a result, Egypt outperforms the average score of the Logistic Performance Index (LPI) of the developing world (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Overall Logistic Performance Index in 2012 (1=low to 5=high)
Cross-border banking has grown dramatically in recent decades through financial liberalization, consolidation, and integration around the world. In the pursuit of higher profitability and diversification, many banks extended their activities beyond their home countries, opening branches or subsidiaries abroad and making the global banking landscape more international. The share of foreign banks in host countries increased from around 25% in 2000 to 33% in 2007. Even though the share of assets owned by foreign banks declined from 13% in 2007 to 10% in 2013, the share of foreign banks as the total number of banks was still 36% in 2013 (Claessens and Van Horen, 2015).
Investment growth in emerging market and developing economies has tumbled from 10 percent in 2010 to 3.4 percent in 2015 and was below its long-term average in nearly 70 percent of emerging an developing economies in 2015. This slowing trend is expected to persist, and is occurring despite large unmet investment needs, including substantial gaps in infrastructure, education, and health systems.
Countries with large nonrenewable resources can benefit significantly from them, but reliance on revenues from these sources poses major challenges for policy makers. If you are a senior ministry of finance official in a resource-rich country, what are the challenges that you would face and Consider some of the issues that you would likely encounter:
For many resource abundant countries, large and unpredictable fluctuations in fiscal revenues are a fact of life. Resource revenues are highly volatile and subject to uncertainty. Fiscal policies will need to be framed to support macroeconomic stability and sustainable growth, while sensibly managing fiscal risks. Also, there is a question of how to decouple public spending (which should be relatively stable) from the short-run volatility of resource prices.
The World Bank Group’s Open Learning Campus (OLC) launched a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) today — Policy Lessons from South Korea’s Development — through the edX platform, with approximately 7,000 global learners already registered. In this MOOC, prominent representatives of academic and research institutions in South Korea and the United States narrate a multi-faceted story of Korea’s economic growth.
Why focus on South Korea? South Korea's transformation from poverty to prosperity in just three decades was virtually miraculous. Indeed, by almost any measure, South Korea is one of the greatest development success stories. South Korea’s income per capita rose nearly 250 times, from a mere $110 in 1962 to $27,440 in 2015. This rapid growth was achieved despite geopolitical uncertainties and a lack of natural resources. Today, South Korea is a major exporter of products such as semiconductors, automobiles, telecommunications equipment, and ships.
Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) currently have a very limited role in climate finance and green investment – reportedly, below the average for institutional investors. According to the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP), which evaluates institutional investors on the basis of their low-carbon performance, five of the 10 lowest-rated large investment funds were SWFs.
However, the more progressive SWFs are currently divesting from assets with large climate-related risks, and some countries are pondering whether their SWF should take a more pro-active role in green finance. What lies ahead for SWFs in this rapidly changing landscape?
SWFs could have an impact on climate finance
The sheer amount of capital managed by SWFs means that their impact on green finance, while marginal historically, has the potential to become significant. According to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute (SWFI), SWFs hold assets worth approximately $7.4 trillion, and the total capital of SWFs has more than tripled over the last decade.
But SWFs’ mandate does not typically include green finance. To the extent that they have been active in this area, it has been to reduce climate-related risk to their portfolios – including exposure to fossil fuels. For example, last October the $22.6 billion New Zealand Superannuation Fund (NZSF) announced a strategy to address climate-change risks that represent a “material” issue for long-term investors, and to “intensify its efforts” in areas including alternative energy, energy efficiency and “transformational” infrastructure. Norway’s giant Government Pension Fund Global ($873 billion) has adopted similar policies to reduce climate-related risk.
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:
- “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: , 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- . 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.
It’s widely recognized that agriculture can be part of the solution to climate change. The worldwide agriculture sector currently accounts for between 19 percent and 29 percent of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A combination of policies, investments and targeted action is critical to achieve a low-carbon and climate-resilient agriculture sector.
But the question arises: Where will the money to fund this transition come from? Can farmers alone finance the productivity and climate change adaptation and mitigation changes that are needed?
The vast majority of climate finance has traditionally flowed to other sectors, accentuating even more the shortfall in finance for agriculture.
Due to perceptions of low profitability, along with high actual and perceived risks, lenders often severely limit the flows of finance directed to smallholder farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in agriculture. Without access to capital, farmers cannot invest in raising their productivity and incomes, becoming more resilient to climate change and mitigating their farms’ negative impact on climate.
But untapped sources of capital exist for making agriculture more climate-smart — namely, in climate finance. A recent World Bank discussion paper, Making Climate Finance Work in Agriculture, explores ways to use climate finance to dramatically increase the flows of capital directed to smallholder farmers and agricultural SMEs, aiming to deliver positive climate outcomes.