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To require businesses to accept cash or not to require businesses to accept cash—that is the question.

> Posted by Sonja Kelly, Director of Research, CFI

handsome smiling african american barista taking cash payment on bar counter in cafe

In Washington, DC—where much of the CFI team is located—more and more restaurants and small businesses have moved away from cash—some going so far as to not accept cash at all. In response, according to the Washington Post, some city lawmakers have suggested a new law that would require businesses to accept cash as a form of payment. The proposal asserts that not accepting cash is a form of discrimination against the poor.

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What if we opened millions of bank accounts but nobody used them? That is one of several conundrums raised by the recently released Global Findex data for 2017.

> By Elisabeth Rhyne and Sonja Kelly, Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion
This post originally appeared on Next Billion’s blog and is reposted here with permission.

geographic distribution of 3 billion people without active accounts, 2017
About 3 billion people in the world either have no account or have an account that sits unused. The countries with the largest number of financially excluded people are also the highest population countries: India and China. This picture has changed little in the past three years.

The Global Financial Inclusion Database (Findex) is a survey of the financial habits of adults in 144 countries with data from 2011, 2014 and now (2017). Governments, foundations, big financial companies and fintechs alike rely on the Findex to understand how people are using (or not using) financial services. It is the best available yardstick through which we measure global progress toward financial inclusion.
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How new product solutions, business models, and partnerships can advance electronic payments and financial inclusion

> Posted by Dan Salazar, Vice President, Product Development and Innovation, Acceptance and Solutions, Mastercard

Ten years ago, 85 percent of the world’s transactions were in cash and checks, and 2.5 billion people were unbanked. Since then, we’ve all been working hard as an industry to develop technology that will give the unbanked access to the world of digital payments. Mastercard has connected more than 360 million people to formal financial services – more than half-way to our commitment of reaching 500 million people by 2020. And the company has set a goal of connecting 40 million micro and small merchants to our payments network by 2021.

While more and more people and businesses are becoming “financially included,” there are still 2 billion people today who don’t have bank accounts, and over the last 10 years we’ve only managed to reduce cash usage by 2 percent. Up to now, we’ve been operating on the assumption that if we displace cash and simultaneously provide access to electronic payments, the unbanked will come. But, at this rate, financial inclusion for those remaining 2 billion people will take 200 years.

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For Telenor Group, the key to fostering inclusive digital finance is collaboration and open technologies.

By Johanna Stemberger, Telenor Financial Services

The digitization of the financial services industry is in full swing. Seamless in-app payments enable smartphone users to pay for rides, tickets, food, etc. with just one click.
Pay with Wave Money AdIn emerging markets, where most of the world’s 2 billion adults without bank accounts live, basic financial services have improved over the last decade: mobile operators and banks enable customers to store and transfer funds using their mobile phones. Still, developers and digital innovators struggle to reach users in these cash-based markets.
How can we foster innovation in financial technology for low-income consumers through products and services that promote digital financial inclusion? Telenor Group believes the answer to this question is to collaborate and open up. We’re going to discuss two examples below.
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For Financial Inclusion Week 2017, WSBI highlights the ways that new partnerships and new products are helping its members make progress toward financial inclusion.


Posted by Mina Zhang, Senior Advisor, WSBI

The World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI) and its members are committed to Universal Financial Access (UFA), doing their part to help realize the “account for everyone” goal. Our data from the end of 2016 shows that we’re making progress, with 136 million new clients and 236 million new transaction accounts, since the UFA benchmarks were set at the end of 2014.

For Financial Inclusion Week 2017, we are highlighting the ways that new partnerships and new products are helping us achieve this goal.
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> Posted by Virginia Moore, Communications Director, CFI

dialogue-on-business-clients-india-1-1024x683

For the last 10 years, the Global Microscope on Financial Inclusion has systematically reported what it takes to create an enabling environment for financial inclusion. The good news is that the global financial inclusion community increasingly understands what works and is designing essential reforms. But the rate of progress is gradual and uneven, and in some areas, still lacking. The latest Global Microscope takes a closer look at what it takes to create an inclusive financial sector—and where intensive effort is most needed.

The Leaderboard

Tying for first place in the global rankings are Peru and Colombia, scoring 89 (out of 100). Second place is also a tie, with two Asian countries, India and the Philippines, each scoring 78. Pakistan earns third place with a score of 63. The spreads between first, second and third place are wider than they are between any other consecutive rungs in the index, but the top-ranking countries are in fact the same as last year. Peru, Colombia, the Philippines, India and Pakistan are longtime financial inclusion institutional and regulatory leaders.

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> Posted by Rishabh Khosla, Senior Investment Analyst, Accion Venture Lab

The following post was originally published on SocialStory.

Embed from Getty Images

The Indian financial services landscape is undergoing a tectonic shift. The last few years have seen a renewed public focus on expanding financial inclusion. Building off prior programs, the government has invested in regulatory reform, improvements to the banking system, payments, and ID infrastructure. They have also announced a series of programs targeting the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Simultaneously, we are beginning to see real shifts in the adoption of digital technologies and banking services (such as basic savings accounts and smartphones), driven by compelling use-cases, such as government subsidies, delivered directly into bank accounts, and rickshaw-hailing apps that use mobile wallets. Together these trends are unleashing tremendous innovation with the potential to speed financial inclusion for millions.

As investors in early and growth stage “social” enterprises that are speeding financial inclusion around the world, we believe startups are uniquely positioned to navigate this shifting technological, regulatory, and competitive environment. Indeed, financial sector reform in India has had many false starts, and there are still many regulatory and structural hurdles to be overcome. However, we believe India is nearing an inflection point with changes playing out in three areas that are giving birth to exciting startup financial services models: MSME finance, digital payments, and consumer services.

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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.