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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Associate, CFI

If you are in a wheelchair in Guatemala, lots of nice people will be willing to carry you up the stairs… But that’s not the point. A recent conversation with Alan Tenenbaum, a disability inclusion advocate based in Guatemala, offered me that perspective. Tenenbaum, who became a quadriplegic after suffering a spinal cord injury in his late twenties, focuses his work on the Latin American country. Those looking to advance disability inclusion in Guatemala, like in most countries, have their work cut out for them. Countrywide, according to Team Around the Child, less than two percent of Guatemalan adults with disabilities have work, most children with disabilities do not attend school, and only a small percentage of those in need of wheelchairs have one. To date, according to a recent paper from Trickle Up, most efforts to advance disability inclusion in Guatemala have been limited to urban areas – even though 50 percent of the country’s population resides in rural areas, where economic opportunities are harder to come by.

I sat down with Tenenbaum to get a sense for progress made and challenges still present in Guatemala for persons with disabilities (PwDs). Since his injury, Tenenbaum wrote a book sharing his story, En la Silla de Morfeo (On Morpheus’ Chair), started and led a foundation, Sigue Avanzando, and has regularly given speeches for schools, universities, news outlets, and private companies. At the heart of these efforts is what he identifies as the biggest barrier to disability inclusion: public awareness.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Associate, CFI

Last week the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) announced substantial increases throughout the country’s microfinance market: growth in the volume of loans dispersed to microentrepreneurs, in the number of microcredit institutions offering savings services, and in the return on equity of rural banks with microfinance operations. Concerning regulation and institutional support, the recently released 2014 Global Microscope found that the Philippines has the best environment in Asia for financial inclusion.

In 2014, loans extended to microentrepreneurs in the Philippines totaled P9.3 billion (US$209 million) as of June, according to figures reported by BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. at the recent Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards in Manila – a roughly 7 percent increase over last year’s figure. On savings, in early 2012 only 22 banks in the country offered micro-deposit accounts. Now, 69 of the Philippines’ 183 banks with microcredit operations take deposits, with a total of 1.7 million micro-deposit accounts. Beyond credit and savings, 86 of the country’s institutions offering microcredit also provide microinsurance and 26 provide electronic banking services.

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Adam Mooney is the CEO of Good Shepherd Microfinance, Australia’s largest microfinance organization.

As the first day of spring arrives in the Southern Hemisphere, we see new buds emerging, fresh blooms, and a new sense of hope and optimism. In Perth, Western Australia, the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) meets Monday, September 1 at a forum to stimulate, coordinate, and reflect on action to bring about financial inclusion. I am hopeful as the GPFI prepares recommendations for the G20 meeting in Brisbane in November this year, it will commit to powerful actions to boost the well-being of at least 2.5 billion people living in poverty around the world.

There is clear evidence that improving the economic well-being of the poorest third of the world’s population will have a profoundly positive impact on all people. Economic mobility and resilience at the family and community level directly leads to increased security, human connectedness, and hope for everyone. It also enables self-directed action to realize one’s own dreams and aspirations, however modest, leading to overall contentment. Yet despite such a compelling economic and social case, poverty and inclusion remain ideologically contested concepts where causality is often polarized into either inadequate human behavior or opaque environmental factors.

Speaking at the C20 Summit last month, I suggested that targeted inclusive finance around the world can and will be a key driver of economic growth, especially through production, employment, and education. It is not a coincidence that the number of people living in poverty is the same as those that are unable to access appropriate financial services, as measured by the World Bank’s Findex reports. These reports state that only half the world’s adults have bank accounts and of those, only 15 percent believe that their needs are understood and met by the products they have access to.

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> Posted by Sonja E. Kelly, Fellow, CFI

We are in full World Cup fervor in the Accion offices around the world, with jerseys making appearances at global staff meetings, water cooler conversations centering on surprise advancements (and eliminations), and a high incidence of lingering trips to the conference room screen to check scores in between meetings and deadlines. You could say things are getting a little heated as the group of teams still in the running gets smaller.

There have been a few attempts to use this global competition as an opportunity to better understand our world. The Wall Street Journal published a “World Cup of Everything Else,” where countries can be matched up on categories from the hottest weather to the biggest eaters of seafood, and Dean Karlan produced a set of predictions based on population, poverty level, and interest in soccer to assess which country would experience the greatest increase in happiness with a World Cup victory (spoiler: Nigeria would have had the most aggregate happiness if it had won the tournament).

But what if the World Cup were a competition based on financial inclusion indicators? If we were to create a bracket where the country with the highest level of financial inclusion advanced, the European countries would all advance, which in my opinion wouldn’t be very interesting.

What if, however, we use the World Cup system to see where the highest number of financially excluded people are? We crunched the numbers to show you, of the countries that made it to Brazil for the competition, who would “win” the title of “highest number of financially excluded people.” Basing winners on the countries with the largest number of people without a formal bank account, we noticed a few surprises.
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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI

What’s the state of funding for financial inclusion initiatives? CGAP’s survey of international funders found that total contributions globally are increasing, more money is coming from public not private funders, funding is extending beyond microfinance to other areas of financial inclusion, and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is increasingly a priority region.

The 2012 CGAP Cross-Border Funder Survey, an annual effort since 2008, surveyed 22 international funders representing 86 percent of the financial inclusion commitments reported for 2012 (a full list of the funders can be found here). The survey, supplemented by data from Symbiotics MIV Surveys, revealed that funders committed $29 billion in 2012, a 12 percent increase over 2011. CGAP indicates that this change stems largely from an improved global economy. This increase might also result from changes to this year’s survey methodology, which, to align with the changing financial services landscape, captures funding activity in a number of additional financial inclusion areas. These areas include financing for small-enterprises and client-level projects, such as financial capability projects.

As was the case in recent years, most funding for financial inclusion initiatives goes toward portfolio financing for retail financial service providers (FSPs). This figure reached $14.8 billion in 2012, representing 78 percent of the year’s commitments. The remaining commitments are in the following areas, all in roughly equal volume: designing suitable products and services, institutional operations, management and governance, and responsible practices. Small levels of support go to policy and market infrastructure. Survey responses indicate that funders identify lack of a suitable range of products and services and limited institutional capacity of FSPs as the major roadblocks to inclusion. In 2012, 10 percent of total funding went towards strengthening FSPs’ institutional capacity.

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> Posted by Sonja E. Kelly, Fellow, CFI

The Financial Inclusion 2020 project at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is building a movement toward full financial inclusion by 2020. Accordingly, this blog series will spotlight financial inclusion efforts around the globe, share insights coming out of the creation of a roadmap to full financial inclusion, and highlight findings from research on the “invisible market.”

As people age, their use of financial services changes. We explored this in detail when we published a lifecycle approach to financial services in Peter Kasprowicz and Elisabeth Rhyne’s Looking Through the Demographic Window. People of working age need to plan for the future while also providing for their families in the present. People who are elderly need to be able to draw on their savings, manage their wealth, and in many cases, draw on and use their pensions.

When we look at the world as a whole, we see little difference between bank account ownership among the working age population (defined as ages 25 to 64) and those who are older (age 65+):

Source: World Bank Global Findex Microdata, 2012

This global equality between the two age groups masks interesting variation in regions in account ownership by age. In Sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia and the Pacific, a much higher percentage of working age adults than older adults have accounts, while Latin America and the Caribbean shows little difference between those groups. Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Center Staff

Corruption at any step in a financial system jeopardizes financial inclusion. Globally, roughly 1 in 4 people paid a bribe to a government employee or institution in the last year. That’s the big finding from the Global Corruption Barometer 2013, the latest in Transparency International’s annual public opinion survey on corruption. This year’s survey polled more than 114,000 people in 117 countries on their experience with bribes, their perceptions of corruption across institution types, and their beliefs on the potential for ordinary people to fight corruption.

Percentage of respondents per country/territory who paid a bribe to a government employee or institution in the last year.

For many, especially those living on less than two dollars a day, a bribe added to the cost of a service can determine if a service is a possibility – this includes basic financial services. Of the countries included in the Barometer, it was found that 7 out of the 9 countries with the highest bribery rates were in sub-Saharan Africa. Sierra Leone recorded the highest rate with 81 percent of polled individuals reporting that they had paid a bribe during the past year, followed by Liberia, Yemen, and Kenya, with 75, 74, and 70 percent, respectively. According to Global Findex data, access to and usage of formal financial services in sub-Saharan Africa is among the lowest in the world.

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> Posted by Sonja E. Kelly and Elisabeth Rhyne, Fellow and Managing Director, CFI

The Financial Inclusion 2020 campaign at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is building a movement toward full financial inclusion by 2020. Accordingly, this blog series will spotlight financial inclusion efforts around the globe, share insights coming out of the creation of a roadmap to full financial inclusion, and highlight findings from research on the “invisible market.”

This post is based on research from the Mapping the Invisible Market project published in the paper Growing Income, Growing Inclusion by Sonja E. Kelly and Elisabeth Rhyne. The paper was released today, and can be downloaded at

The World Bank, UN, and The Economist are all talking about it: growing income around the world. The UN’s goal to halve the number of people living in poverty by 2015 has already been achieved, and the media frequently spotlights growth in emerging markets contrasted with reports of malaise in the EU and US economies. In low and middle-income economies, it isn’t just the wealthy or the well-connected who benefit from this growth. Real incomes are rising among the poor, moving hundreds of millions of people from extreme levels of poverty into levels at which they begin to have more income flexibility.

Over the course of this decade, the bottom two quintiles in many of the world’s most populous countries will see movement into and even beyond the “vulnerable class,” defined as having an income of $4 to $10 per day. Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Syed Mohsin Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer, Pakistan Microfinance Network

The Financial Inclusion 2020 campaign at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is building a movement toward full financial inclusion by 2020. Accordingly, this blog series will spotlight financial inclusion efforts around the globe, share insights coming out of the creation of a roadmap to full financial inclusion, and highlight findings from research on the “invisible market.”

At the Pakistan Microfinance Network, we are always in search of more data on financial inclusion in Pakistan. So imagine my delight when I heard about the Country Profiles feature on the Center for Financial Inclusion’s Mapping the Invisible Market website that features data from the World Bank Global Findex among other sources. My exploration of the Pakistan country profile page gave me some new insights and raised a few questions for future research.

First, a very high proportion of the people who took loans (largely informal) in the past year in Pakistan took them to deal with health and emergencies. Seventeen percent of all adults in Pakistan borrowed in the past year for health and emergencies, while only about 10 percent of the people in other middle income economies did so, even though in Pakistan, people are less likely to take out loans overall.

Reasons for taking out a loan

This observation makes me wonder if there is a pent-up demand for insurance in Pakistan. For a country that has seen a number of major disasters in the last few years, no doubt there is a great need for insurance products in Pakistan to help prepare for emergencies.

When I looked further at who it was that was taking out these loans (again, both formal and informal) for health or emergencies, I noticed that they were disproportionately rural, or poor, or to have only completed primary school. These observations offer a picture of what vulnerability looks like in Pakistan, and where financial inclusion efforts might be targeted for maximum impact.

Looking specifically at formal financial services, I found that the percent of people who have an account at a formal financial institution in Pakistan is quite low—10 percent—compared to the rest of South Asia—33 percent. In both, the number one use of accounts is to receive wages. Unsurprisingly, in Pakistan, education and gender have a great impact on the use of accounts—25 percent of people whose education level is secondary school or higher have an account compared to only four percent of people who have just a primary school education. Seventeen percent of men have an account compared to three percent of women. Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, CFI

The following post was originally published in the Guardian Development Professionals Network DAI Partner Zone.

When the Global Findex, an unprecedented demand-side survey by the World Bank and Gallup, was released last year, it marked the first time financial inclusion statistics from the demand side were available on a globally consistent basis. The headline: 2.5 billion adults (including 59 percent of adults in developing countries) are “unbanked” — that is, they do not have an account at a bank or other formal financial institution.

Why is having a bank account the top indicator of financial inclusion?

Setting aside the obvious point that bank accounts are among the easiest indicators to track, the policy focus on “banking the unbanked” seems to rest on the premise that bank accounts have a special role in financial inclusion. Three important functions ascribed to bank accounts are: a place to save, a money management hub, and a way to establish an ongoing relationship with a formal financial institution (an “on-ramp” to other services). These assumptions appear to underpin much of financial inclusion thinking and policy.

If a bank account is a money management tool – a central node through which a person’s financial transactions flow – it will be used regularly. This is the way most people in the developed world (and, I suspect, most financial inclusion policy makers) use bank accounts. However, many accounts in the developing world are relatively inactive. Taking the frequency with which people make more than two withdrawals per month as a proxy for operating an account as a money management hub, the following chart divides the “banked” into low – and high – activity accounts.

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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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