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AXA shares insights on and solutions to women’s unmet insurance needs in emerging economies.

By Garance Wattez-Richard, Head of Emerging Customers, AXA Group

Women-focused insurance solutions are a central part of AXA’s Emerging Customers work. In our SHEforSHIELD report, launched with the International Finance Corporation in 2015, we found that the market is growing quickly, as women become more risk-aware and willing to invest in protection. We conducted focus groups with women in Indonesia, Nigeria, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and learned that women have very specific, yet unmet needs when it comes to insurance. I am happy to share the stories of three of the women we met on our customer insights journey, diving into their fears and desires and the role that inclusive, women-focused insurance solutions could play.

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We discuss emerging consumer risks posed by nano-loans through the frame of the Client Protection Principles.

> Posted by Alex Rizzi, Senior Director, The Smart Campaign

As champions for financial inclusion, the Smart Campaign is excited about the potential of nano-loans—small value loans, delivered through mobile phones, with a large concentration of deployments in East Africa. Nano-loans are available nearly instantaneously, leverage non-traditional data for underwriting, and can be disbursed and collected with minimal human interaction. These tiny loans can help underserved customer segments access credit, as well as meet short-term liquidity crunches. But as consumer protection advocates, we also want to ensure that these loans are delivered with quality and respect, and do not cause harm to consumers.

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> Posted by Center Staff

This edition of top picks features posts that spotlight green loans reducing energy poverty, savings and loans to improve the vulnerability of microbusinesses, and factors driving uptake of mobile insurance services.

In celebration of Earth Day, the Kiva Blog took the opportunity to share their work on green loans. These loans to individuals and small business owners help with the high upfront costs of clean energy technology. Globally, 1.3 billion people live in energy poverty – without access to modern energy services. Green loans support healthy and environmentally friendly energy switches, like from kerosene to solar lighting. Kerosene lighting produces black carbon or soot which is harmful to breath and also a greenhouse gas. Kiva has facilitated the funding of 39,000 green loans.

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> Posted by Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, CFI

I was recently asked to give a talk at the University of Pennsylvania’s 8th (!) annual Microfinance Conference. This year’s theme, “Microfinance Beyond Its Roots” set me in search of ways in which the microfinance industry is moving into areas beyond its original microcredit core. Of course, this process has been going on for a long time, and so there are many topics to choose from.

I decided to look at health care, partly because, as every staff member of a microfinance institution knows, health setbacks are one of the most frequent sources of repayment problems among low income clients. As they learned about the health vulnerabilities of their clients, microfinance organizations began to invest in experiments, bringing their businesslike approach to bear on a challenge that is often dealt with in heavily subsidized, non-market ways. Today, many of these programs have matured and grown, even as new ideas are being tested.

I looked among the organizations belonging to the Microfinance CEO Working Group, and I found that nearly all have something exciting going on in health care. Approaches include some combination of direct health care service provision, health insurance coverage, and education. Many are using technology as a means of reaching people at scale and low cost.

The meetings associated with group lending provide a convenient and cost-effective platform for health services, and adding a health component to group microcredit is probably the earliest and most widespread model. Health education was perhaps the starting point, as pioneered by Freedom from Hunger and also implemented by Opportunity International. Today the services often reach farther (while health education continues to be important). ProMujer, for example, directly employs nurses and other health practitioners to staff fixed and mobile clinics available to ProMujer members. They focus on maternal and reproductive health, as well as screening for the chronic diseases that are increasingly major health issues in Latin America. Hundreds of thousands of women get access to health care through ProMujer’s efforts.

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> Posted by Larry Reed, Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign

On February 5, the Microcredit Summit Campaign released Vulnerability: The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, 2013 by announcing that in 2011, 13 million fewer of the world’s poorest families received access to microcredit and other financial services than in 2010. This is the first time since 1998, when the Campaign began tracking this data, that the total number of clients and the number of poorest families reached have declined. We found in our data that the total number of clients fell from 205 million to 195 million and the sub-set of families living in extreme poverty, defined as less than $1.25 a day, fell from 137 million to 124 million. (Visit the report website to learn more.)

I presented the report at a launch event at Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C., and Susy Cheston (Senior Advisor at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion) moderated a lively discussion with my co-panelists Wendy Abt (Deputy Assistant Administrator, USAID), David Roodman (Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development), and Alexia Latortue (Deputy CEO, CGAP). Not surprisingly, the most salient exchange of the panel arose with David in the role of provocateur.

Challenging the Campaign, he contrasted simple but powerful messages that communicate well to the mass public—“microcredit can help people lift themselves out of poverty”—to more nuanced messages that better communicate reality but are harder to condense into a soundbite. Many of us are trying to figure out how to convey the nuanced message that “a range of financial services, when combined with other important development services, may provide tools that people can use to move away from poverty.” David asked whether, after seeing the results of unchecked growth in Andhra Pradesh, the Campaign wanted to rethink its goal-setting role.

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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.