#tbt: Digital Transactions for Products the Poor Can Afford

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The promise of mobile technology infographic: how it works
Rodger Voorhies, director of financial services for the poor at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the United States, talked to Larry Reed, director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign, for the 2013 State of the Campaign Report.

Larry Reed: What opportunities do you see for digital transactions making a difference in the lives of the very poor?

Rodger Voorhies: Like most of us, poor people live their lives through a lot of different kinds of financial connections, and payments are really the connective tissue that hold those financial transactions together. Unless we can figure out ways to help poor people transact in a way that is profitable for them and profitable for providers, we’re really not going to see large-scale financial inclusion take place.

Now, one of the most exciting things that’s going on for us is the ability of mobile money to reach down into really poor households, and so right now in a country like Tanzania 47 percent of households have a mobile money user. An exciting bit of that is not so much, okay, there’s one person in the household sending money to friends, but it might open up all kinds of innovations that before were previously unavailable.

So, let’s think about savings, because we know savings have a big impact on poor people. Well, it’s really hard to save, and poor people have to take a lot of self-control and we expect a lot of self-discipline out of them if they’re going to be able to save. If I can actually begin to transact digitally and I had defaulted into commitments accounts and savings accounts for school fees or whatever the mental maps are that work for me, I think we can see large scale inclusion that actually has a big development impact. And we know that the empirical evidence around these pieces work, so we know commitment accounts work, but poor people just don’t have a way to get those commitment accounts.

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Launching the 2015 Report in the epicenter of financial inclusion

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We launched our new State of the Campaign Report, Mapping Pathways out of Poverty in India, the epicenter of the current financial inclusion transformation. For two days at the Access/Assist Inclusive Finance India Summit, I heard about all of the technological and regulatory innovations that will be driving access to finance in the country over the next decade. Over the past 12 months, the government, regulators, and financial institutions of India have made huge strides, providing first time bank accounts to over 300 million people.

Some of the other numbers reported at the Inclusive Finance India Summit were just as staggering:

  • The country has more than 568,000 banking outlets now (including banking agents), compared with only 2,000 just 10 years ago.
  • In its first 68 years of existence, the Reserve Bank of India approved 12 new banks. In the next two years, 23 new banks will be established (i.e., 11 Small Finance Banks, 10 Payments Banks, and 2 Commercial Banks).

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Celebrate improving maternal and child health in the Philippines

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Over the past 20 years, the Philippines has enjoyed an increase in life expectancy, improved access to education and economic opportunity, and a decrease in communicable diseases. However, maternal health has lagged behind, and as 2015 draws to a close, the world will be reflecting on the Millennium Development Goals like #5, “Improve maternal health.” Three development organizations took action in 2014 to tackle this challenge and are now celebrating what has been achieved, new partnerships that have been formed, and plans for moving forward.

Freedom from Hunger and the Microcredit Summit Campaign partnered with CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI) to implement a project called “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: Kalinga kay Inay.” The project is supported by an educational grant from Johnson & Johnson and will conclude at the end of 2015.

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New report calls for scale-up of financial services “pathways” to help end extreme poverty

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The Microcredit Summit Campaign released our 17th annual survey of the global microfinance industry Wednesday at the Inclusive Finance India Summit held in New Delhi, India. Larry Reed featured the publication, Mapping Pathways out of Poverty: The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, 2015, in his presentation on Wednesday to attendees of India’s premier financial inclusion conference.

What does the 2015 report say about the data?
According to our annual survey, the global microfinance community reached 211 million borrowers as of December 31, 2013, and 114 million of them were living in extreme poverty (households living on less than $1.90 per day, PPP).

What this means is that, while the microfinance community provided loans to the most clients since we began tracking this number in 1997, the number of poorest clients fell for the third straight year. This is concerning.

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The 2015 State of the Campaign Report in a nutshell

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An African farmer is linked into the financial system via her mobile phone.
In his presentation today at the Inclusive Finance India Summit New Delhi, Larry Reed featured Mapping Pathways out of Poverty: The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, 2015. The report is now available online. We will also publish the full report in French, Spanish, and Arabic in early 2016. You can also read previous reports online, just select the year of interest from the drop-down menu “Previous Reports.”

At our 2013 Microcredit Summit in the Philippines, we focused on the partnerships required to deliver financial services to those living in poverty. At our 2014 Summit in Mexico, we focused on innovations in microfinance with a demonstrated capacity to reach those in extreme poverty. This year, we use the report to explore, in more detail, our six financial “pathways.” Each pathways has a chapter, and each chapter does the following:

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Where’s the Map? Another sneak peek!

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John Snow mapped out London's cholera epidemic in the 1850s. This helped my make connections between seemingly unrelated unrelated
“A map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected.”
— Reif Larsen, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

How does BRAC, the world’s largest non-governmental organization (NGO), develop pathways out of poverty for the poorest people in a village? They begin with a map. As you see in the photo on the cover of this report, they bring the village together and start drawing maps in the dirt, identifying each household, market, business, and place of worship. They then ask the help of the community to identify the poorest households, marking each one on the map. Their work begins with those households.

This painstaking, household-by-household approach of identifying the excluded and locating them within their community and context represents the next step that we need to take to achieve a new set of ambitious global development goals.

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Sneak peek of the 2015 State of the Campaign Report

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The map on the right illustrates the prevalence of below $1.90 per day poverty in rural areas. Source: Adapted from World Bank Data (online), 2015, "Rural Population (% of total population)," http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.RUR.TOTL.ZS; and ibid., "Poverty gap at $1.90 a day (PPP 2011) (%)," http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.GAPS.
The World Bank and the United Nations have both set their sights on ending extreme poverty by the year 2030. The Bank has also set a concomitant target of universal financial access by 2020 as a major contributor to ending extreme poverty. Our assessment, after reviewing the contributions that microfinance institutions and other financial providers have made toward these two goals, is this: if financial services are meant to play an important part in bringing an end to extreme poverty, we will not come close to reaching it.

Microfinance has demonstrated the viability of providing financial services to people in poverty and technological advances have drastically reduced the cost of providing financial services. But, we still do not see widespread adoption of financial services among the largest groups of those that still need to be reached: those living in extreme poverty.

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#tbt: Affordable Transactions for the Poor

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We are pleased to bring you this #ThrowbackThursday blog post, which was originally published in Resilience: The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, 2014, under the chapter “Mobile Network Operators Can Build Systems that Reach the Poorest and Most Remote.” The section excerpted below describes how important mobile technology and digital financial services are for reducing the cost of doing business with the poor and hard-to-reach — both for the provider and the client. Read also Ian Radcliffe’s blog post from Tuesday in which he describes WSBI’s progress achieved so far toward a related Campaign Commitment.


Transaction costs pose a significant challenge to those seeking to provide financial services to people transacting in very small amounts or living in remote areas. The cost of providing the service often exceeds the price that the client can afford to pay. People living in poverty must manage daily transactions with incomes that are small, inconsistent, and often unpredictable.

Ian Radcliffe, of the World Savings Bank Institute (WSBI) reported its research that calculates that people living in poverty can only afford to pay about USD 0.60 a month for financial transactions, an amount far lower than the cost to employ staff to manage the transactions. Moving transactions to mobile platforms can drastically reduce many of these costs.

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#tbt: Clients Continue Movement above the US$1 a day Threshold

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We are pleased to bring you this #ThursdayThrowback blog post, which was originally published in The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report 2011. We commissioned a study to estimate the net number of microcredit client households in Bangladesh that crossed the US$1.25 a day threshold between 1990 and 2008. You can download a copy of the study from our Resource Library as well.

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#tbt: The Faces Behind the Statistics

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#ThrowbackThursday
Janèt Dèval, a client of Fonkoze, a microcredit institution in Haiti, is one of the 66.6 million poorest clients reached. Janèt has been a credit client for more than two years and comes regularly to all meetings. She has also been a part of every literacy program available and is about to start the newest module on developing business skills. Not only could she not read or write when she started, but she has had an extra challenge: Janèt has only a fraction of her hearing due to an injury when she was 20 years old.

When I found out that Fonkoze gave literacy classes for market women, I was so happy. I never went to school even one day. I didn’t know anything about school. I started right away with basic literacy and I have tried to never miss a class.
I finished Alfa Baz and Alfa Pos and then I went to the Health Program, too. I still don’t know many things, so I want to keep going. I take my notebook to my school and I write in it because one day I hope to read and understand everything. I bought two books in the market and my kids help me read them.
I work hard in the market so that I can repay my loans, keep going to school and so that my kids have that chance, too. If my parents would have sent me to school, I would have thrown a party for them to say thank you.

We are pleased to bring you this #ThursdayThrowback blog post, which was originally published in The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report 2005.

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#tbt: Lobbying the World Bank, Part II

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“We measure what we value and we value what we measure. It is clear that donor agencies value strong financial performance because they require their clients to measure their financial performance precisely. Except for USAID, other donors still do not demonstrate a similar value on measuring the poverty level of entering clients.”

We are pleased to bring you this #ThursdayThrowback blog post, which was originally published in The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report 2004. The RESULTS International Conference is this weekend (July 18-21), and grassroots activists from the U.S. and around the world will be in D.C. to lobby the USAID Administrator and World Bank Directors. In reviewing advocacy fights in the early 2000s, we remember our campaign to push the World Bank to mandate the use of poverty measurement tools by their partners.

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#tbt: Lobbying the World Bank, Part I

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#Tbt_6We are pleased to bring you this #ThursdayThrowback blog post, which was originally published in The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report 2004. The RESULTS International Conference is only three weeks away (July 18-21), and grassroots activists from the U.S. and around the world will be in D.C. to lobby the USAID Administrator and World Bank Directors.


In this introduction to the State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, rather than presenting a neat, uncontested picture of the field of microcredit seen solely from the Campaign’s perspective, we think it useful to listen to the challenges and opposition to what the Campaign and these parliamentarians have championed, coming as it does from some of the most influential institutions in development. In the pages that follow, we invite you to listen in on debates that contrast the views of the World Bank and CGAP with those of industry leaders like BRAC founder Fazle Abed, Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus, and the Microcredit Summit Campaign. What follows are excerpts from the World Bank and CGAP’s responses to the 700 parliamentarians, along with reactions from the Microcredit Summit Campaign.

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#tbt: A New Law and New Hope

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#Tbt_5We are pleased to bring you this #ThursdayThrowback blog post, which was originally published in The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report 2004.


The revolution in reaching the very poor is most evident in a new U.S. law and the resistance to it by some leaders in international development. The law, which was enacted in June 2003, calls for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop and certify two or more cost-effective poverty measurement tools that measure $1 a day poverty. The new tools are to replace loan size, which is currently used and has proven to be inadequate for poverty measurement. As Freedom from Hunger President Chris Dunford remarked, “The average loan size for entering clients tells you more about the institution making the loan than it does about the poverty level of the person receiving it.”

After the newly mandated tools are certified, institutions receiving microenterprise funds from USAID will be required to use one of them and report the number of entering clients who start below $1 a day. The law is an effort to bring accountability and transparency to the long-standing Congressional commitment to have at least half of USAID microenterprise funds benefit very poor clients. This new law, particularly if it is adopted by other aid-giving countries and institutions, would have a great impact on the Microcredit Summit’s commitment to reaching the very poor and provide tremendous support to the MDG focused on halving the number of families living below $1 a day by 2015.

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