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What if your employer told you that your next paycheck would come in the form of  Bitcoin. How would you react?

Woman using mobile phone in olive farm

> Posted by By Chrissy Martin, U.S. Global Development Lab, USAID
Note: This post originally appeared on ICTworks and is re-posted here with permission.

Do farmers really want to be paid in mobile money? To answer this question, I’ll ask you to first entertain a brief thought experiment.

Imagine that your employer told you that next pay period, your company will start paying you in Bitcoin.  How would you react?  Sure you’ve heard about Bitcoin, but you have lots of questions as to what it will mean to receive your salary this way, such as:

  • Am I getting swindled?!
  • Where can I use bitcoin?
  • Can I spend it like dollars, or will I have to convert into dollars first?
  • Where can I convert?
  • How much is the conversion fee?
  • Will I be paid into my same bank account?

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> Posted by Center Staff

After great anticipation, three years’ worth to be exact, the 2017 Global Findex Database was officially released this morning. The Global Findex is the authoritative data source on global progress toward financial inclusion. Released every three years, the Global Findex surveys more than 150,000 adults in 144 economies to better understand how people access and use financial services to make payments, and also to save and borrow.

Since the 2014 Findex, the percent of the global population that has a bank account with a financial institution or mobile money service rose from 62 percent to 69 percent. Five-hundred and fifteen million individuals opened an account for the first time over the past three years, reducing the unbanked population to 1.7 billion adults worldwide. However, the new data also reveal critical shortcomings in progress. For instance, the financial inclusion gender gap didn’t improve. Globally, women remain 7 percent less likely to own a bank account than men.

Here are a few of the 2017 Global Findex’s high-level statistics:
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It’s not just social media. We need a fresh look at how financial data is protected, too.

> Posted by Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, CFI

Embed from Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg defended Facebook’s handling of customer data yesterday before the U.S. Senate, and many of us at Accion and the Center for Financial Inclusion were riveted. Not that the testimony was especially compelling as television spectacle, but because the issues at stake are so important both for our own lives and for our work.

I did a quick scan of the staff here in our Washington, D.C. office, and would like to share some of their thoughts.

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Data from InterMedia reveal stagnant progress across key financial inclusion indicators in Nigeria

> Posted by Nadia van de Walle, Charles Wanga, and Ridhi Sahai, Financial Inclusion Insights, InterMedia

The number of adults who are considered financially included in Nigeria has not improved since 2014, according to InterMedia’s Financial Inclusion Insights (FII) 2016 Annual Report and Survey Data. The survey defines financial inclusion as adults with a registered account at a full-service financial institution. Financial inclusion in Nigeria dropped slightly from 37 percent in 2015 to 35 percent in 2016 (Figure 1), lagging behind the three other African countries surveyed as part of the FII program. In 2016, FII data showed 69 percent of Kenyans, 54 percent of Tanzanians, and 40 percent of Ugandans were financially included.

InterMedia recently completed and published the 2016 Annual Report and Survey Data on the status of financial inclusion in Nigeria. The report, based on a nationally-representative survey of over 6,000 Nigerian adults, provides insight into Nigerians’ financial lives while tracking trends in attitudes, access, use and demand for financial services.

(click to enlarge)

With an economy that is large enough to account for almost a third of Africa’s total GDP, why might Nigeria be lagging its peers?

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> Posted by Sonja Kelly and Elisabeth Rhyne, Director of Research and Managing Director, CFI

The World Bank is just days from releasing the next version of its Global Financial Inclusion Index (Findex), the authoritative data source on global progress toward financial inclusion. The dataset, which tracks financial inclusion in 150 countries, is released once every three years, and we have been waiting eagerly to see how things have changed since 2014. We are confident that the numbers will show enormous progress on the World Bank’s goal of universal access to financial accounts. But we wonder whether the news will also indicate that people are actually using those accounts and whether financial services are helping them achieve financial health, gain resilience and pursue opportunity – the ultimate goals of financial inclusion.

After we high-five the World Bank team for a job well-done, here are a few things that we will be looking for when we examine the new Findex numbers:

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Designing a mobile money product that meets client needs while bringing tangible benefits to the financial institution

> Posted by Habiba Balogun, Habiba Balogun Consulting

The following is part of a blog series spotlighting views from participants in the Africa Board Fellowship (ABF). For more from Habiba, an interview with her can be found here.

With over 160 million mobile phones in use in Nigeria out of a population of 180 million, high mobile penetration is a major factor in the country in achieving seamless payments.

In 2016, at Accion Microfinance Bank (AMfB) in Nigeria, where I serve as a board member, we introduced a mobile banking product called Brighta 143. The product is USSD (unstructured supplementary service data), so it runs on both basic and smart phones, and it has shown great potential to expand financial inclusion as well as bring benefits to our institution.

But of course, rolling out a successful mobile money product is hardly straightforward.

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Recommendations for how Colombia’s banks, fintechs, telcos, and government can better harness technology to boost inclusion

> Posted by Miriam Freeman

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In Colombia, where institutional factors favor technology as a tool for development, fintech has proven helpful in promoting financial inclusion, but only through a narrow definition of inclusion—more access. If we broaden our definition of financial inclusion, the country’s progress in leveraging fintech is less substantial. What can the business community and policymakers do to advance fintech for financial inclusion in Colombia?

First, let’s take a step back. In terms of financial inclusion broadly, how does Colombia measure up?

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New data shows mobile money is increasingly becoming a gateway to more advanced financial services in Kenya

> Posted by Beatrice Cheronoh and Nadia van de Walle, Research Associate and Senior Research Manager, InterMedia

Embed from Getty Images

Financial access in Kenya is already very high, especially when compared to other countries in Africa and Asia. In this setting, the momentum around expanding access has plateaued, but a new narrative is taking hold – around deepening engagement with financial services, more active use, and use of a wider range of more advanced services. Although there was no increase in the share of the population that holds a registered financial account, the 2016 Financial Inclusion Insights (FII) data shows that financial engagement is becoming more meaningful for those customers who are already included.

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A high-level business case for financial inclusion constructed using data on the impact of M-PESA on poverty in Kenya

> Posted by Ethan Loufield, Director of Strategy and Operations, CFI

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In making the case for financial inclusion, advocates often try to appeal to our business sense, rather than just speak to how it can improve people’s lives. In so doing, they often refer to the “business case,” which in some ways feels like an attempt to convince the disinterested or the skeptics. It’s an acknowledgement that in order to muster the resources needed to make the financial system work better for lower income market segments, there has to be a payoff for those who provide the services. The fact is that the future of financial inclusion depends greatly on there being a payoff. And when you stop and think about it, it shouldn’t be that hard to show that there is one.

As the title to this post suggests, the value that financial inclusion can help to unlock could very well be measured in the trillions of dollars. So, what we see is an enormous asset (arguably with the potential to surpass the value of all the gold in the world, for example), and it behooves those of us in the financial inclusion community to capitalize on this to expand our influence in the market.

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Consumer protection is a driver of revenue, and not a regulated compliance cost

> Posted by Dylan Lennox, Partner, MFX

Educating digital financial services (DFS) providers to understand that consumer protection is a core business strategy is as important – if not more important – than consumer protection regulation supervision if we hope to ensure that vulnerable consumers are well protected. For this reason, as I articulated in my last post, I would like to see DFS providers and their managers take the lead when it comes to driving consumer protection, and that consumer advocates and regulators’ efforts are aligned to make sure this happens.

There are many possible reasons why DFS managers are not taking the lead, however, beyond a general lack of awareness of consumer protection and its importance:

  • They might be driven to achieve short-term targets with limited resources, prioritizing their time, budgets and activities to meet high ROI expectations. Or they might be under pressure to launch innovations and take advantage of the “next big thing” like digital credit or data monetization.
  • They could lack the necessary knowledge and experience in their teams to properly address consumer protection. Such know-how involves truly understanding customers’ needs, developing intuitive user interfaces, designing appropriate sales incentive structures, assessing customers’ loan affordability, and implementing effective internal control frameworks to address security, loss of privacy, or fraud risks.
  • Or perhaps the technology they have implemented does not have the required functionality to properly implement basic consumer protection requirements – like those of data security, for example. In such a case, it is left up to the individual DFS managers to make specific technical developments to address consumer risks. Such an institution-by-institution approach increases the overall cost of consumer protection to the industry and decreases the likelihood that it will be implemented as these measures compete with other priorities.

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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.