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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Specialist, CFI

Last week the President of Mexico launched the country’s long-delayed National Financial Inclusion Strategy. The comprehensive plan engages the spheres of private banking, social welfare, public education, telecommunications, and more to extend quality financial services to the 56 percent of adults in the country who remain without a formal bank account. Although the plan was nearly full-formed three years ago and has since sat on the proverbial shelf, the enactment of the strategy represents a reaffirmed commitment to financial inclusion across the Mexican Government, including the Office of the President, the Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Public Education.

The national strategy is structured as a six-pillared plan. The Ministry of Public Education (Secretaria de Educacion Publica) will promote financial education starting with children and youth by incorporating related content into the curriculum of public education. Financial education will also be embedded in government programs like Prospera, Credito Joven, and Mujeres PYME. Prospera is Mexico’s conditional cash transfer program, which has 6.5 million beneficiaries. Credito Joven is a youth inclusion program introduced in February 2015 that aims to empower young people, in part by providing credit to those with no credit histories. Mujeres PYME offers finance and business development support to small businesses led by women.

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> Posted by Center Staff

“We would not be here without the visionary work of the pioneers who came before us, especially the women leaders who fought to build the very first banks for women in countries with seemingly insurmountable barriers,” writes Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking in the forward of a new online book, Celebrating Women Leaders: Profiles of Financial Inclusion Pioneers. The book shares the stories of 31 women leaders from around the world who made the financial inclusion landscape what it is today.

Those recognized in the book include practitioners, academics, researchers, regulators, thought leaders, financiers, and more. Among them, the industry’s earliest pioneers, like Ela Bhatt, founder of Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), as well as those who joined more recently, like Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director of the Better Than Cash Alliance, and Jennifer Riria, CEO of Kenya Women Holding. Full disclosure: of the 31 included in the book are also CFI leaders and partners, including Anne Hastings, Elisabeth Rhyne, Essma Ben Hamida, and Jayshree Vyas.

The book was the idea of Samit Ghosh, CEO and Founder of Ujjivan. Ujjivan and Women’s World Banking worked together on the project, with young women working in the sector researching, conducting interviews, and writing the leader profiles.

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

We are looking for four research fellows to explore some of the most relevant and exciting questions facing the financial inclusion community. Interested?

Before answering, some background. A few months ago we articulated some ambitious unanswered questions that we think will propel financial inclusion forward, and offered the space for you to contribute questions, too (many thanks to those of you who made suggestions!). Since the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is committed to figuring out what is working in financial inclusion and worth replicating, we have made it a priority to partner this year with researchers to explore some of these questions in greater detail.

And that’s where you come in.

We are looking for researchers who are interested in becoming fellows for the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion’s brand new Fellows Program. The Fellows Program will empower independent researchers to systematically analyze some of the most important and critical challenges facing the industry. This year, we are selecting four fellows to explore the following topics:

  • What are the conditions for “on-ramps” to lead to deeper inclusion? With the World Bank’s commitment to Universal Financial Access and the Better Than Cash Alliance’s pursuit of G2P payments, both of which focus on connecting people to transaction accounts, the next question is how (and whether) such connections lead to greater inclusion, through either active account usage or access to additional products. What cases demonstrate successful on-ramps and what factors or strategies enabled deeper inclusion to take place? Research could examine one or several examples.

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> Posted by Andrew Fixler, Freelance Journalist

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Indian financial inclusion advocates enjoyed a brief victory lap and an international spotlight in January, and they are poised to move into 2015 with a renewed push. On January 20, Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was presented with a Guinness World Record for the fastest financial inclusion roll-out in history, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY). In one week, between 23 and 29 August 2014, 18,096,130 bank accounts were opened through this national inclusion strategy. Since that date the number has grown to over 123 million across the country. During his January 25 joint address with Prime Minister Modi, President Obama commended Indian leadership’s commitment to prioritize financial inclusion for all Indian citizens, and pledged American support.

In a January 27 press release, USAID affirmed Obama’s pledge, and announced its intention to partner with over 20 Indian, U.S., and international organizations with the support of the World Economic Forum (WEF) to work alongside the Indian government “to expand the ability of Indian consumers and businesses to participate in the formal economy.”

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> Posted by Jamie M. Zimmerman, Senior Policy Consultant, CGAP

Achieving financial inclusion by 2020 will depend in large part on the proliferation of fast, affordable, and accessible digital financial services (DFS). Indeed these effective, scalable models were a clear theme at the FI2020 Global Forum hosted by CFI last fall. Yet as excitement for DFS dominated much of the public discussion, a small and diverse set of financial inclusion leaders convened a private side-meeting to discuss an often-overlooked question: what are the consumer risks to these new, innovative digital models?

The meeting, co-hosted by CGAP and UNCDF’s Better Than Cash Alliance, introduced the concept of “responsible digital finance” and revealed heightened awareness of and interest in an array of issues related to the potential consumer risks of digital financial services, including:
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> Posted by Jamie M. Zimmerman, Director, Global Assets Program, New America Foundation

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.”

Good news for the audacious folks putting forth a vision of financial inclusion by 2020: government-to-person (G2P) payments are poised to serve as a significant on-ramp to financial services for the most excluded populations. In the last decade, the use of cash to alleviate poverty has gained a lot of popularity. Armando Barrientos and David Hulme, authors of the well-received “Just Give Money to the Poor,” have estimated that more than 500 million poor people around the world benefit from cash transfers. Even better news is that these individuals, mostly young women and girls, and many of them among the poorest and most marginalized populations in society, make up a sizable portion of the elusive “bottom billion” – those often deemed “too poor” to effectively take advantage of traditional microfinance services.

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> Posted by Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, CFI

The following post was originally published on the CGAP Microfinance Blog.

The Center for Financial Inclusion’s project, Financial Inclusion 2020 is attempting to make predictions about the future of access to finance for the world’s low income people. So I was delighted to discover in a stack of old papers a CGAP Focus Note containing a rich set of predictions for the future of microfinance – from 2006. These predictions were contained in several sets of scenarios that examined possible futures for financial inclusion. For each topic, CGAP envisioned an optimistic scenario and a pessimistic one.

With six years gone by, it is possible to look back and see how the scenarios have fared. Acknowledging that in 2006 both the global financial crisis and the iPhone were in the future, CGAP did pretty well – both in anticipating important positive changes and warning about possible negative ones. Here are my comments on 10 of the predictions drawn from either the optimistic or pessimistic scenarios put forth.

1. Hundreds of millions of poor and unbanked clients gain access to cell phones. Absolutely. If anything, this prediction was too timid. At that time, CGAP foresaw much of the new access through shared phones, and they did not yet imagine the power and accessibility of smart phones.

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> Posted by Susy Cheston, Senior Advisor, 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.”  

The Financial Inclusion 2020 campaign begins with an audacious premise: that it is possible, if all the stars align, to achieve full financial inclusion for all with quality financial services by the year 2020. Yes, that would take quite a few stars to line up perfectly, but here are my top seven reasons for optimism as we work to advance inclusion.

1. There are more mobile phones than toothbrushes in the world today.

Bad news for dental health, but good news for billions of previously excluded clients who have access to a device that can include them in financial services if the mobile money folks play their cards right. With mobile subscriptions exceeding 86 percent of the global population, there is great promise if providers can figure out the business models.

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> Posted by Susy Cheston, Senior Advisor, CFI

In a challenge to luminaries gathered at the Clinton Global Initiative, President Clinton asked the following question: in a world where nearly everything has been solved by someone somewhere, why can’t we bring more solutions to scale?

Jim Yong Kim, the new President of the World Bank, had a great answer. We need to design for scale from the start. For example, one of the biggest breakthroughs in addressing HIV/AIDS on a global level has been the success in negotiating with pharmaceutical companies to bring drug prices down. Thanks to work spearheaded by the Clinton Health Access Initiative alongside UNITAID and the U.K.’s Department for International Development, companies were persuaded to dramatically change their business model from one of low volume/high cost to high volume/low cost. The cost of life-saving medication dropped from thousands of dollars to, in some cases, $50 to $75 per person per year. The number of people with access to the medication rose from 200,000 to millions over a decade. A radical change in the business model meant the providers remained profitable while millions more have been served with treatment that not only prolongs their lives but also has an impact on prevention.

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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.