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> Posted by Amanda Lotz, Financial Inclusion 2020 Consultant, CFI

The Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bankers (G20) is targeting financial inclusion through the G20 Development Working Group (DWG), which is in the process of finalizing an agenda for its 2014 goals. The DWG focuses on developing an agenda for tackling development challenges, with the intent to remove constraints to sustainable growth and poverty alleviation. Recently, through our participation in InterAction’s G20/G8 Advocacy Alliance, CFI teamed up with other non-profits in the financial inclusion community to develop a set of recommendations for G20 leaders. While the Alliance and DWG span a diverse range of issues, our focus was, of course, on financial inclusion.

Our recommendations to the G20 were developed in coordination with CARE International UK, the Grameen Foundation, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, HelpAge USA, and the Microcredit Summit Campaign, among others. They urge governments to implement national strategies for financial capability and client protection, ensuring that these strategies and targets address a full suite of financial services and include underserved groups. You can read the full set of recommendations and contributing organizations here.

Last week we had the opportunity to discuss our recommendations with senior leadership from the Australian G20 presidency. As you may know, the G20 Presidency rotates each year, and this is Australia’s year. Each presidency takes a lead in setting the agenda and priorities, which are then discussed and (ideally) implemented by all G20 members.

The G20 Australian presidency issued a global development agenda, which was supported by the DWG. It highlighted two major outcomes for 2014 related to financial inclusion and remittances. We were happy to see an expressed desire to move beyond a focus on cost reduction for remittances, where there has been a great deal of progress, to maximizing the potential of remittances to increase financial inclusion.

During the meeting, our financial inclusion team brought three key points to the conversation: Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Associate, CFI

Jeroo Billimoria of Global Money Week, a worldwide child and youth financial empowerment movement, recently said, “Want to ensure poor children mature into poor adults? Make sure they spend all their leftover cash.” To me, that simple statement captures the obvious case for advancing financial inclusion for children and youth. Youth save at dismal rates and lack adequate access to formal financial services. Global Money Week, expected to span 112 countries, 485 organizations, and 2 million children, aims to combat this reality.

The weeklong movement, now in its third year, is led by Child & Youth Finance International (CYFI), a global network working towards the financial inclusion and economic empowerment of children and youth. Global Money Week’s participants range from central banks, to government ministers, schools, NGOs, the media, and children. Its activities include bank visits, educational events, expert discussions, online engagements, and the launching of new research and initiatives.

One of the new reports launched in coincidence with Global Money Week is Banking a New Generation: Developing Responsible Retail Banking Products for Children and Youth, a joint-publication from MasterCard and Child & Youth Finance International. The publication is designed to support financial institutions, NGOs, and governments in collaboratively developing financial products and services appropriate for children and youth. Among the publication’s content are guiding principles for appropriate child and youth products, the case for financial institutions investing in this client segment, and considerations for the product development process.

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> Posted by Richard Leftley, Chief Executive Officer, MicroEnsure

The Financial Inclusion 2020 campaign at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is building a movement toward full financial inclusion by 2020. This blog series spotlights financial inclusion efforts around the globe, shares insights from the FI2020 consultative process and highlights findings from “Mapping the Invisible Market.

Last year a statistic was released claiming that there are 6 billion phones in circulation around the world. It is clear that mobile-based delivery channels are perhaps one of the greatest opportunities in working to achieve human and market development goals, including financial inclusion.

Microinsurance is one of the great beneficiaries of mobile-based payments and service delivery innovations, as shown by the rapid growth of mobile microinsurance (MMI) products from an estimated 20 in 2006 to 84 in 2013. Today much of the growth in microinsurance is through partnerships with mobile network operators that are keen to increase sales and retain customers. But demand side obstacles persist and pose a significant challenge to growth and sustainability. Many products are available that are sound and beneficial, but clients are not picking them up. Why is that?

mobile phone

Over the past nine years we have provided microinsurance to millions of clients via a range of distribution channels including banks and microfinance institutions, SACCOs, cooperatives, and even churches. However, our real breakthrough came when we realized that no one wakes up wanting to buy insurance, but people do wake up worried about the risks they face. Through our work with mobile network operators, we have demonstrated that the mass market will radically change their consumer behavior in return for free insurance that addresses their risk.

Recently I stopped a man in the street and asked him if he wanted to buy life insurance. However hard I tried I could not make the sale, but when I asked him how much money he sent home to his mother every month, he became excited about a product that would keep providing that remittance to his mother if he had an accident and died.

Our ability to provide great microinsurance products is driven by our capacity to consider the needs and attitudes of our clients and then integrate these types of insights about choice and value into each product.

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> Posted by Center Staff

PCMA CEO Abeer Odeh and PMA Governor Jihad Al Wazir

Last week Palestinian government officials announced plans to create a national financial inclusion strategy, an initiative that would put it on a short list of two countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region that have nationwide, government-led inclusion plans (Morocco being the other).

The Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA) and the Palestine Capital Markets Authority (PCMA), the country’s central bank and a national regulating body will co-lead the project along with support from the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) and other public and private groups.

The policies and guidelines of the strategy will aim to facilitate greater access, improve awareness and financial education, and reinforce client protection. An area inviting particular attention is access to credit, which is low for both individuals and SMSEs. The strategy will build on inclusion principles endorsed by the G20, World Bank, AFI, and the OECD Principles on National Strategy for Financial Education.

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> Posted by Sonja E. Kelly, Fellow, CFI

I was thrilled when I opened the paper this week to the news of Michelle Bachelet’s victory in Chile. The first female president in Chile, first elected in 2006, is back in office after a one-term break. I have long admired her advocacy for those living in poverty, her tenacity, and her activism. However, her victory also means a question of what will happen to the admirable financial inclusion initiatives begun by the Piñera administration.

In many of my conversations with government employees in Chile in the past year I have heard some caveat to the effect of, “I’m not sure what we’ll be able to do in the coming months given the upcoming election.” Initiatives like electronic government-to-person (G2P) payments, for example, were pushed forward by people connected with the Piñera government, and if the new administration does not prioritize such initiatives, financial inclusion may receive less policy attention.

This highlights a larger issue of who “owns” government-initiated financial inclusion efforts. The answer matters because the leadership structure of government-led initiatives determines longevity. If financial inclusion policy is spearheaded by the Central Bank, and the Central Bank ministry is largely independent, financial inclusion initiatives are unlikely to change course with an administration change. If it is a Ministry of Finance-led push, however, financial inclusion may indeed be an administration-specific initiative.

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> Posted by Caitlin Sanford, Lanna Lome-Ieremia, and Sameer Chand, Bankable Frontier Associates, Central Bank of Samoa, and Reserve Bank of Fiji

Another version of this post is published on the Alliance for Financial Inclusion website.

Sigatoka Market, Sigatoka, Fiji

Until now there have been few sources of publicly available data about financial access and usage in the Pacific Islands. Although individual central banks are measuring and tracking progress towards financial inclusion, the small island countries in the Pacific region have often been left out of international financial inclusion datasets, such as the Global FindexThe IMF Financial Access Survey captures some key financial inclusion indicators but this does not include all the countries from the Pacific.

The Pacific Islands Working Group on financial inclusion (PIWG) of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion came together this year to define and collect financial inclusion data specifically tailored to the region. Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu participated in this data project. While the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) and the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) have elaborated key sets of financial inclusion indicators to be used for global comparison, in some instances, individual countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Tanzania, and others have crafted broader sets of country-level indicators. This is the first time a broader set of common indicators have been developed at a regional level.

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> Posted by Anne H. Hastings, Manager, Microfinance CEO Working Group 

Global Forum Venue: The London Lancaster

Global Forum Venue: The Lancaster London

As I traveled to London to attend the FI2020 Global Forum, my mind was filled with many thoughts. First was excitement that I had been invited to attend when I was still very much a microfinance practitioner. I was still in the process of adjusting after 17 years living in Haiti struggling to build an institution that would be a model of a client-centric, double bottom line microfinance institution (MFI) committed first and foremost to reaching the very poorest people in Haiti and providing them a pathway to a better life. For me, this meant providing them with a full range of financial and social services. My commitment to these clients had been solidified through my years in Haiti but also by my service on the Smart Campaign Steering Committee and the Board of the Social Performance Task Force and more recently by my role as a practitioner advisor to Truelift.

But now that I was in the plane and on my way, I had taken on a new role: Manager of the Microfinance CEO Working Group, a collaborative effort of the CEOs of eight pioneering global microfinance networks – Accion, FINCA, Freedom From Hunger, Grameen Foundation, Opportunity International, Pro Mujer, VisionFund International, and Women’s World Banking – all dedicated to advocating for more responsible microfinance practices and to instituting the highest standards of performance within their own MFIs. These eight CEOs represent 250 MFIs in 70 countries, serving some 40 million families. Suddenly I had been boosted from deep concerns about the future of poverty in one tiny country of 9.5 million to a preoccupation with the future of MFIs worldwide.

The Forum was a beautiful reflection of the often chaotic financial services marketplace of today where traditional banks, telecoms, retail stores, donors, investors, policymakers, regulators, and MFIs often collide in seeking to capture new markets. In attendance were the CEOs of institutions like Citi and MasterCard, along with several former Governors of Central Banks, technology innovators like the CEO of bKash, executives of insurance companies like MetLife and Swiss Re, Managing Directors of investment companies like Wolfensohn Fund Management, experts in alternative data systems like Cignifi. There were times when I thought maybe I had actually entered the wrong conference! Who were all these people, and what did they have to do with the future of microfinance?

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> Posted by Alex Counts, President and CEO, Grameen Foundation

The Financial Inclusion 2020 Global Forum was a remarkable and historic convening. I was honored to have been invited to attend and co-facilitate an “ideas to action” roundtable about one of the five parts of the Roadmap to Financial Inclusion .

Immediately after the event I reached out to Elisabeth Rhyne to understand how I could help build on the groundwork laid at the conference. She suggested I write a blog post about my experience. My immediate reaction was that commenting on such a wide-ranging and successful effort was a bit daunting. But I felt it was worth a try.

Dissecting the Term “Financial Inclusion”

I will admit that I have warmed slowly to the language of financial inclusion and financial capability. Are these just new buzzwords for time-tested concepts? (And if so, why use them?) Let’s assume they are new concepts. If so, financial inclusion feels like more of a means than an end. For me, the end is the reduction of poverty and the empowerment of low-income women – so why not focus on those? If having a poor or even middle-class person simply open their first “no frills” bank account is considered a step towards financial inclusion, regardless of how useful or helpful that bank account is, is this banner a lackluster one to rally under? Further, it is not clear to me that the provision of quality financial services through informal financial institutions (however defined) is being properly valued in the financial inclusion agenda. Finally, does making “financial capability” something of a prerequisite for people accessing formal financial services effectively let financial institutions off the hook for meeting clients where they are and designing appropriate products for them?

While my apprehension about these concepts has not entirely dissipated, I emerged from the Global Forum feeling that this campaign for full financial inclusion, at least as defined by CFI, is evolving as a powerful rallying point for a diverse coalition of providers, regulators, technologists, researchers, and activists. The notion of full inclusion is essential. I now see financial capability as a concept that defines the end state when financial education (through whatever means) is done effectively. The Forum probably had a similar impact on many others – helping them travel from a place of confusion or even wariness towards strong alignment and shared purpose.

Read the rest of this entry »

Innocent Ephraim, M-PESA Product Manager, Vodacom, discusses some of the main concerns shared on the FI2020 Global Forum’s panel ‘Building Infrastructure & Spurring Innovation’, along with an overview of the challenges faced in rolling-out M-PESA’s product success in Kenya to Tanzania and South Africa. 

Financial inclusion and technology innovation

The main concern of the forum panel was making sure that we bring in financial inclusion, and technology innovation is one of the key things for this. What I strongly believe in is the mobile money product itself. And mobile money products are being held up with a pillar, which is the agent distribution. Just like any other product that is mass distributed – Coca Cola and similar products – mobile money products need to be visible, available, and trusted. So once all of that is achieved, then innovation can chip in.

Listening to the customer

It’s important to listen to the customer because customers are the reason why we do this. We want to make sure that we don’t complicate their lives because the minute that we do that we already risk excluding them with our complicated innovation that we put in the mix. And we’ve got it wrong many times, we’ve learnt from our mistakes, and as a Product Manager, I know that it’s critical to listen to our customers.

Learning from mistakes

I’ll give you an example of a mistake we made with a product that we learnt from. We launched a life insurance product in Tanzania, and we expected millions to adopt it. We were actually shocked with the cultural behavior in Tanzania. Every customer that we communicated with to pick up the product kept saying: ‘You guys want me to die! Why do you want me to die?’ Here, we learnt that it’s not all about what we think is good for the customer. So we went back to the drawing board. Nevertheless, the product is used by hundreds of thousands in the country.

Now the team in Tanzania has done a study to see what type of insurance our customers need, and then reposition it. And one of the key findings from that study is that customers need a product they directly benefit from, health insurance was seen as ideal because then they feel they benefit out of it. They don’t want to buy an insurance cover that benefits somebody else – for example, the life insurance product where the customers felt it was just bad luck for them and that we just wanted them to pass away!

Kenya: the archetype of mobile payment

Kenya is a very good place to go and look at how mobile payments and technology has worked out. But you need to enter into different markets in different ways. If you look at Kenya, the population is dense and one agent would service hundreds of customers. When you go to Tanzania, where the population is much sparser, an agent would service fewer customers, and that makes it less attractive to an agent. Consequently, agents choose to invest in some other type of business instead of mobile money. (That’s only one of the differences between the two markets. A study has been done to highlight the differences of these two neighboring countries.) What we learnt in Tanzania is that we need to make sure that different products and services are integrated into the agent point-of-sale. So when you give an agent a tool to conduct mobile money services, allow them to do utility payment or airtime as well, so they actually aggregate from transactions from the same customer. That creates more incentive and profitability to the agent.

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Credit Suisse is a founding sponsor of the Center for Financial Inclusion. The Credit Suisse Group Foundation looks to its philanthropic partners to foster research, innovation and constructive dialogue in order to spread best practices and develop new solutions for financial inclusion.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog, except where otherwise noted, are those of the authors and guest bloggers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Financial Inclusion or its affiliates.
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