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> Posted by Alexa Roscoe, Private Sector Advisor, CARE International UK

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.”

CARE International promotes microinsurance as part of the range of services and products that the poor need to help overcome poverty and reduce their vulnerability to shocks. However, we also know that as with all products, to be sustainable, any microinsurance model also needs to be profitable. Fortunately for the insurance industry and its clients, it’s being demonstrated that increasing profit and promoting financial inclusion do not have to be mutually exclusive. New research from our work in India shows that microinsurance distribution strategies that prioritize building clients’ financial literacy lead to almost three times as many new enrollments as those that do not.

There are a number of substantial challenges in marketing and distributing microinsurance products. Frequently, it is less a matter of marketing a product than building a new market from scratch, often in remote, hard-to-reach areas, with a client group without access to formal financial services. These factors make the costs of marketing to, distributing to and servicing clients disproportionate to the resulting margins. A number of strategies are being piloted globally to circumvent these challenges. For example, building off of growing mobile penetration rates among developing country populations, one initiative bundles an insurance product with the purchase of a SIM card. While this requires a lower initial investment, the jury is still out on the long-term value of such products. Unless clients receive thorough product education, such “blended approaches” might hinder awareness of the insurance product, as well as re-enrollment and the building of any brand loyalty.

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> Posted by Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, CFI

Kim Wilson, of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, is a consummate educator who knows that drama leads to learning. That’s why she staged a competitive debate to kick off her Extreme Inclusion conference.

The Proposition: Financial inclusion means formal inclusion.

On the Pro side were myself and my esteemed colleagues Marguerite Robinson, emerita extraordinaire, Lauren Hendricks, of Care’s Access Africa conference, with coaching from Ahmed Dermish of Bankable Frontier Associates.

Taking the Con side were Ahmed’s colleague from BFA, Daryl Collins, together with Ignacio Mas, unaffiliated innovative thinker, and Jenny Aker of Fletcher, coached by Nick Sullivan, author of Money Real Quick: The Story of M-PESA.

Peter Walker of Tufts wielded the gavel with wit and a tiny hint of malice. He symbolized the Pro side with a green spike heeled shoe, and the Con side with a pink flip flop.

Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I took up the last position on the Pro side, with three minutes to make my points. Here’s what I said:

1. Development is about building societies that offer opportunity and connection to everyone. The important word is building. Let’s look where we are going. While many low income people today use and possibly even prefer informal financial services, one cannot consider this the path to the future. If we want to see the bottom 20 percent of the population become economically successful, there must be a path to success. We need only look to the accomplishments of microfinance in bringing microcredit to hundreds of millions in the past two decades to be confident about the prospects for major change in the future.

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> Posted by Alice Allan, Head of Advocacy, CARE International UK

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.”

CFI has rightly identified that having a range of financial products informed by client needs is a key priority area for achieving full financial inclusion. Through the Banking on Change Partnership, CARE, Plan, and Barclays have developed new savings-led products based on a link between informal savings groups and Barclays bank branches that have proven to be a good fit for low-income clients in the current financial services landscape.

To date, Banking on Change has developed three different types of savings accounts and an overdraft facility, connecting a total of 500 groups (that’s around 25,000 individuals) to Barclays branches. Together these groups have deposited $103,694 into accounts, showing that linkage with a global bank is possible when done in a controlled and responsible way.

Now, for the details…

The Uwezo savings product in Kenya is a good example of a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) product designed with client needs in mind. The design process started with an assessment of the group’s needs, which clearly brought out the fact that members had greater financial services needs than the VSLAs could provide. We learnt that members could meet the obligations of these more formal financial services, provided they were packaged appropriately and delivered through the right kind of channels.

With this in mind, Barclays adapted its procedures to allow savings groups to open accounts easily. Before this initiative, formal registration with the Chamber of Commerce was required to open a group account. To simplify the process, Barclays agreed to accept a photocopy of the savings group’s constitution, signed by all members, as the necessary identification. By allowing group accounts, Barclays has lowered its transaction costs, as one group account is far more economical to administer than 25-30 individual accounts.

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> Posted by Alice Allan, Head of Advocacy, CARE International UK

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.”

Today marks the start of an important meeting in Monrovia, Liberia, where the UN High Level Panel will look at what might replace the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015. With a focus on economic transformation, the panel hopes that any future framework to reduce poverty includes increasing “jobs and growth,” and “tackling inequality.”

Those of us focused on financial inclusion believe increased access to finance can help achieve these admirable aims. But would the UN High Level Panel agree?

Last week the Banking on Change partnership between Barclays, CARE International, and Plan UK produced Banking on Change: Breaking the Barriers to Financial Inclusion, a report which, amongst other things, makes the case compellingly enough that we believe the UN High Level Panel should take note.

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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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Posted by Center Staff

Last week, New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof spotlighted Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) and their power to give clients hope. He cites the story of one woman, Biti Rose, who gets a loan of $2 and starts selling doughnuts for 2 cents each. She makes a few dollars in profit each day and eventually begins to improve her life. Kristof admits that her story is not everyone’s. He does offer a nuanced picture of Biti’s story, however, using Banerjee and Duflo’s Poor Economics, positing that microfinance works because it offers the hope that people need to get themselves out of self-destructive pathologies.

The post begins: 

If you want to understand some of the best new ideas to chip away at global poverty, an excellent place to start is the Nasoni family hut here in the southern African nation of Malawi. Read the rest of this entry »

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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.