Drivers of Access and Inclusion
Rapid changes and innovations in technology, especially the spread of mobile phones, have been driving access and inclusion. The mobile money industry processes 1 billion dollars a day through 276 mobile money deployments in 90 countries, according to GSMA, a global association of mobile network operators. Mobile phones and various other access points have brought financial services to the people rather than requiring people to travel long distances to actual brick and mortar banks.
Fintech companies are rapidly disrupting the financial sector landscape, making it easier than before to expand access. For example, super-platforms such as Ali Baba/Ant Financial, are rapidly expanding access through internet marketplaces or social media.
This innovation and “mobility” in financial services has been key.
Infographic: Gateway to Financial Inclusion. Click here to view the full infographic.
Having vs. Using Financial Accounts
Global financial inclusion objectives have also evolved. Having access to a financial account is a great start, but it’s not enough. And having a financial account and using it are two different things, Findex data show.
Today, some emerging markets are now at 80 percent financial access or greater, such as China, India, Kenya, and Thailand. As countries make progress on access to accounts, they need to focus on improving usage. Globally, one-fifth of accounts are inactive—with neither a deposit nor a withdrawal in the past 12 months, according to Findex.
China is an excellent example of how access to accounts can transition to usage: Today, over 80 percent of adults in China have an account. 85 percent of adults who buy something online also pay online (as opposed to paying cash on delivery).
To increase account usage, countries can digitize cash payments — government transfers and wages. Alternatively, they can start by investing in fundamental infrastructure such as digital IDs and online credit histories — if people can prove who they are and can provide a credit history, financial institutions are much more likely to let them open an account.
Closing the Remaining Gaps
As countries focus on account usage, they also need to focus on extending access to finance to population segments that are more difficult to reach, such as women, the poor and those living in rural areas. About half of unbanked people are women, live in poor households, or are out of the workforce, according to the latest Findex data.
Financial services need to be tailored to the needs of first-time users, who may need customized products and accompanying financial literacy services that explain how to use financial products.
Financial capability – knowing and understanding how to use financial services – is what gave Mohirahon the confidence to open her own shop. Likewise, for Farzona, an Afghan refugee living in Tajikistan. Participating in the financial literacy training taught her to record all her purchases. “That helped me cap unnecessary spending. Now I'm smart with my money. This technique allowed me to increase savings, increasing my family budget,” she says.
As these new consumers enter the formal financial sector, financial capability training helps them make informed choices. However, they also need to be protected from harmful business practices, which is why it’s important that countries establish robust financial consumer protection frameworks.
Also, focus on women is key to gender equality and women’s empowerment. Although 65 percent of women now have an account, up from 58 percent in 2014, the gender gap remains at persistent 9 percentage points in developing countries. Those countries that had a gender gap back in 2011 when Findex started, continue to have it today – and it is particularly wide in South Asia.