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> Posted by Jeremy Leach, Director and Head, Insurance, Bankable Frontier Associates
The global financial inclusion agenda continues to place insurance at the back of the queue when it comes to funding and broader financial inclusion strategies, despite the fact that the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) has become the leading financial inclusion focused standard setting body with its own financial inclusion implementation arm, A2ii and the significant growth of microinsurance from a low base of 78 million people in 2007 to 500 million people in 2012.
My hypothesis is that this is because of a lack of understanding of the role of insurance in the value chain and the way that it can manage risk and provide benefits for the low-income markets, which includes:
- A misplaced view that insurance is the lowest priority in a hierarchy of consumer financial needs – thus less important than payments, savings, or credit.
- The desire to directly target the very bottom of the pyramid. Whilst there has been a global recognition that microcredit is aimed at the near-poor, not the absolute-poor, donors have typically focused at the very bottom of the pyramid, often in hard to reach areas sometimes called the “supra-market zone,” and yet expect market-based solutions to work. Whilst this may also have been exaggerated through an irrational optimism by some of the private actors, the impact has been somewhat predictable.
- The time it takes to create a viable and dedicated insurance business. As exemplified by the recent business case undertaken on specialist microinsurance intermediaries, there was an unrealistic view of how quickly and easily it would be to create a profitable microinsurance business. A founder of a multinational $1 billion insurer once said that it takes 10 years to create a viable and profitable insurance business in the traditional sector – and yet we have been trying to get there far sooner.
- The focus on driving retail-based insurance products, paid for by the consumer. The idealistic view is that through the poor paying the premium from their own pockets they will learn to trust insurance and therefore value it, which will create a market. However, the nature of insurance, with payments due now and returns in a possible future, makes it notoriously hard for a customer to test. This has led to discussions around the need to drive tangibility and in-life benefits in order to assist take-up. The focus could equally be revised to address the portfolio risks of the institutions that serve the low-income market.
> 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.
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 »