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> Posted by Pablo Antón Díaz, Research Manager, CFI

Leonardo Tibaquira Morales, Product Manager at Accion, leads a training for workshop participants who work with pensions

Traditional financial education programs have, at best, a minimal impact on the financial capability of recipients. At least that’s what the research tells us. Still, the vast majority of time and energy contributed towards improving financial capability around the world is channeled through traditional methods. I had the opportunity to take a closer look – and contribute to – one country that is energetically trying to improve financial capability: Colombia.

The Colombian government recognizes that the average level of financial literacy and financial capability in the country is low, especially among rural and low income communities (as a joint-study by CAF and others across several South American countries demonstrates) and that the programs implemented thus far have been insufficient to address the issue. But, the country is poised for change.

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> Posted by Sonja Kelly, Fellow, CFI

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in taking a close look at financial inclusion efforts around the world, it’s that context matters. That’s why we are excited to be part of the team releasing the Global Microscope 2014: The Enabling Environment for Financial Inclusion. The Microscope is carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) with sponsorship and guidance from the Multilateral Investment Fund of the IDB, CAF, and Citi. The Microscope evaluates the environment for financial inclusion in 55 different countries and provides powerful signals to policymakers in each country on their progress. Which countries topped the list and which have the most room to grow?

We’ll tell you, but first, it’s important to know what the results mean. Each country inspected in the Microscope is assessed on 12 indicators that consider best practices in national regulatory environments and institutional support for providers serving clients at the base of the pyramid. Indicators range from government support for financial inclusion, to supervision of microfinance and other financial products, the status of credit reporting, regulations governing mobile banking and, last but not least, consumer protection.

This year is an important one in the publication’s eight year history because the focus shifted from microfinance to the environment for financial inclusion, a process that involved adapting the framework to account for today’s diversity of providers and products. What we were surprised by, however, was just how little a difference this made in the rankings. We charted last year’s results on the microfinance environment against this year’s results on the financial inclusion environment and we found a very high correlation between the two (see figure below). Environments that are enabling for microfinance are often environments that are enabling for financial inclusion. Six countries from last year’s top 10 were in this year’s top ten. Read the rest of this entry »

> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI

Peru ranks as the developing country with the best environment for microfinance, followed by Bolivia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Kenya, in that order. Latin America and the Caribbean is ranked as the best region in the world for microfinance, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and lastly the Middle East and North Africa. Globally, the microfinance industry is improving, fueled largely by an increase in credit bureaus, improving client protection, and the spread of regulatory frameworks for mobile banking.

These are a few of the big takeaways from the Global Microscope on the Microfinance Business Environment 2013, which was launched yesterday in Guadalajara at the IDB’s 2013 Foromic conference. Now in its seventh year, the Global Microscope annual series examines the environment for microfinance – and increasingly financial inclusion – by considering the national regulatory environment and the corresponding institutional framework.

Originally developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit in collaboration with the Multilateral Investment Fund and CAF, this year’s study is also sponsored by Citi Microfinance and CFI. This year’s report scores 55 countries, and in general, the global picture is promising. Since last year, 30 countries improved their scores, 19 fell back, and the scores of six countries remained the same. The majority of improvements this year came from advancements in institutional frameworks. The scores for regulatory framework and practices mostly declined.

As a region, Latin America and the Caribbean countries claimed half the slots in the global top ten, with Peru maintaining its previous ranking as the top country in part through improvements in regulation for mobile banking. Unlike the rising score for Peru, Bolivia’s score fell, due to restrictive new legislation, although not far enough to dislodge Bolivia from its number 2 ranking.

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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.