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universal financial access

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.

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.

Progress toward Universal Financial Access

Stephen Kehoe's picture


Photo Credit: Women’s World Banking 

Two years ago, Visa announced a commitment, alongside other organizations, to provide financial access to 500 million unbanked adults as part of the World Bank Group’s goal of achieving Universal Financial Access (UFA) by 2020.  It’s widely reported that 2 billion people worldwide (38% of all adults) don’t have access to formal financial services—no bank or savings account, no formal way to store or send money, no basic financial tools to manage life or business or help to generate income.

There was no doubt in our minds that Visa had a role to play, given the reach of our payments network and the fact that facilitating the issuance of digital payment accounts is our core business.  What was not as clear was how much our efforts would need to factor in changes to strategy in order to ensure the kind of accounts people are receiving hit their mark in terms of usage and provided a genuine pathway to full financial inclusion. 

Moving toward financial inclusion in East Asia and the Pacific

Leora Klapper's picture

Surging account ownership among the poor. The highest rate of account ownership among women in developing countries. Widespread formal saving.

Those are some of the key financial inclusion trends in East Asia and the Pacific, as outlined in a new policy note drawing on the 2014 Global Findex database.

Since 2011, about 700 million adults worldwide have signed up for an account at a formal financial institution (like a bank) or a mobile money account. That means 62 percent of adults now have an account, up from 51 percent three years ago.

East Asia and the Pacific made an outsized contribution to this global progress. About 240 million adults in the region left the ranks of the unbanked; 69 percent now have an account, an increase from 55 percent in 2011 (figure 1). Poor people led the regional advance, as account ownership among adults living in the poorest 40 percent of households surged by 22 percentage points — to 61 percent. Much of the growth was concentrated in China — which saw account penetration deepen on the bottom of the income ladder by 26 percentage points — but China was hardly alone. In both Indonesia and Vietnam, account ownership doubled among adults living in the poorest 40 percent of households.

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

Gloria M. Grandolini's picture
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.

Well-regulated financial technology boosts inclusion, fights cyber crime

Joaquim Levy's picture

Luceildes Fernandes Maciel is a beneficiary of the Bolsa Família program in Brazil. © Sergio Amaral/Ministério do Desenvolvimento Social e Agrário

Financial technology — or FinTech — is changing the financial sector on a global scale. It is also enabling the expansion of financial services to low-income families who have been unable to afford or access them. The possibilities and impact are vast, as is the potential to improve lives in developing countries.

The financial sector is beginning to operate differently; there are new ways to collect, process, and use information, which is the main currency in this sector. A completely new set of players is entering the business. All areas of finance — including payments and infrastructure, consumer and SME credit, and insurance — are thus changing.

Telenor: Financial inclusion is a good sustainability initiative and business opportunity

Yahya Khan's picture

 

Easypaisa Pakistan Health Insurance Blog - Family Eating (from a Telenor Pakistan promotional video for Easypaisa)


Telenor believes in empowering societies. Motivated by the prospect of building something that can make a difference for customers with very limited access to traditional financial services, we ventured to leverage our mobile tele-density strength in developing countries to bring about financial inclusion. Telenor has committed to enabling 50% of its customers to use their mobile phones for financial services by 2020, which means 100 million customers will have access to mobile financial services. We joined the UFA2020 initiative eager to learn from other players on shared challenges, drive strength from a common goal, and scale solutions that have demonstrated success in other markets.

We are about to launch in Myanmar and have obtained a banking license in India. We are already working in Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Hungary, Malaysia, Pakistan, Serbia and Thailand. In each country we have adopted different models of financial services catering to the needs of that market. For example, in Serbia fully owned Telenor Banka is the first fully mobile and online bank, consolidating banking needs in a unified digital interface, making it the fastest growing bank and the highest rated banking app in the region. In Pakistan, Telenor’s subsidiary Tameer Micro Finance Bank offers mobile financial services under the globally recognized brand of Easypaisa, serving over 20 million customers for domestic and international remittances, purchase airtime, pay utility bills, receive government social cash transfers, pay taxes, save and borrow money, buy insurance or make online retail purchases. We are picking up speed in delivering straightforward digital banking services in most of our Asian markets. Last year we established the groundwork for business in five out of six Asian countries, and this year we are focusing on expanding our footprint in these markets. When all businesses are up and running, we will be ready to build scale and to reach our 100 million customers target.

Universal financial access by 2020? Look to Africa for inspiration

Irina Asktrakhan's picture

The World Bank (WB) has set an ambitious goal of securing universal access to formal financial services by 2020. Although 700 million people have signed up for a bank account since 2011, about two billion worldwide remain unbanked. As the WB seeks to expand worldwide financial inclusion, it should look to Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) for inspiration.

Unlocking innovation in the Middle East through financial inclusion

Simon Bell's picture


I recently attended an SME Conference in Jordan around SME Finance and Employment – extremely important issues in a troubled region.  All participants agree that much more needs to be done to address the lack of jobs in the region and to increase financial access at all levels, to individuals, households and small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs).

The Middle East remains the most financially excluded region in the world despite being a middle income region.

Only 4% of unbanked adults in the Middle East say that they don’t have an account because they don't need one. In other words, it is clear there is widespread unmet demand for financial services.

A person living in the Middle East is less likely to have a bank account than is a low-income person living in Africa or South Asia, and significantly less likely than a person living in Latin America, Eastern Europe or East Asia from comparable middle income country or region. This poses a dilemma – why?

Pakistan Microfinance Network commits to reaching 50 million new depositors through UFA2020 initiative

Syed Mohsin Ahmed's picture

Two billion people worldwide still lack access to formal and regulated financial services. In 2015, the Bank Group with private and public sector partners committed to promoting financial inclusion and achieving Universal Financial Access by 2020.  We've invited our partners to reflect on why they've joined the UFA2020 initiative and how they're contributing toward this goal. This contribution comes from the Pakistan Microfinance Network. #FinAccess2020


Photo Credit: Muhammad Kaleem, Courtesy of the Farmers Friend Organization (FFO)

Kaneez Fatima is a 50 year-old entrepreneur living in Sheikhupura, a city situated 40 km northwest of Lahore, Pakistan. Years before when her husband passed away, she had no idea to find the means for raising a family of six and her future seemed bleak. In her childhood she had acquired the skill of stitching footballs, and she thought about setting up her own workshop. But as a woman in a male dominated market, in an already challenging entrepreneurial environment, she faced what seemed to be an uphill challenge.

Sadly, Kaneez is not alone. World Bank Group Findex data estimates that Pakistan is home to 100 million unbanked people, or 5.2% of the world’ unbanked population, and the ‘Access to Finance Survey 2015 commissioned by the State Bank of Pakistan states that only 23% of adults use formal financial services offered by formal financial intermediaries with only 16% of Pakistani adults have an account with a formal financial institution.


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