We second that toast, Beth

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Medal of freedom Yunus_Alex Counts smiling
>>Authored by Larry Reed, Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign

Last week, Beth Rhyne posted a well-deserved tribute to Alex Counts, who recently retired as CEO of Grameen Foundation. I’d like to add to her thoughtful articulation of Alex’s contributions to microfinance and the lives of people living in poverty.

I once sat with Alex at a dinner in Dhaka that brought together many different strands of the Grameen family. Our table included several of the board members of Grameen Bank, women clients of the bank. They laughed at Alex as he talked with them in Bangla, and then let us know exactly what they thought about how the government was treating Prof. Yunus. As I watched their delighted conversation, I was struck with how it traversed so many traditional barriers of gender, age, caste, education, experience and income. It was just Alex and his friends, who were not only clients of Grameen but were also mothers, daughters, board members and business owners. He wanted to learn as much as he could from them.

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Rating progress toward financial inclusion on a scale of 1 to 10

fi2020 progress report homepage2

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The Microcredit Summit Campaign is delighted to support CFI’s efforts to track the progress of the Financial Inclusion 2020 project. In contribution to the “Financial Inclusion 2020 Progress Report,” we recently conducted a series of interviews with microfinance leaders around the world who are committed to reaching the most marginalized. Read “Addressing the financial needs of the most excluded” to hear directly from practitioners engaged in this work. Elisabeth Rhyne believes you will be both astonished by the progress and daunted by the gaps that remain” in financial inclusion. Read her post below and visit the interactive Progress Report website to take part in this financial inclusion diagnosis.


The following blog post was originally published
by the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion

>>Authored by Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, Center for Financial Inclusion

Today the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) is proud to launch the Financial Inclusion 2020 Progress Report, an interactive website that portrays the recent progress and unmet challenges on the path to global financial inclusion.

When we began the FI2020 project in 2011, we hoped to create a sense of both urgency and possibility. We believed that enabling everyone in the world to gain access to quality financial services was a goal of major development significance. We also saw that with many active players and the promise that digitization would enable many more people to be reached at lower cost, it was no longer simply wishful thinking to call for full inclusion within a reasonable timeframe. Global financial inclusion had entered the realm of the possible.

Today, in 2015, we are both astonished by the progress and daunted by the gaps that remain. Global Findex data shows 700 million new accounts in the three years from 2011 to 2014, reducing the number of unbanked worldwide from 2.5 to 2 billion. National governments have created ambitious financial inclusion strategies, the FinTech industry is exploding with $12 billion in global investments in 2014 alone, and the World Bank has a plan for reaching universal financial access to transaction accounts by 2020.

Our quantitative review, By the Numbers revealed that if the current trajectory of expansion in accounts continues, many countries will achieve full account access by 2020. The rails are being laid at a rapid rate, and there is great momentum toward universal access. But access to an account is not the same thing as financial inclusion, and progress toward meaningful financial inclusion, in which people actively use a full range of services, is lagging. The passengers — customers — are often still waiting at the station for services that take them where they want to go.

With assurance of great momentum around access, CFI believes that the time is right to turn greater attention to quality and value for the customer, which are the genuine heart of financial inclusion. In the Progress Report, you will find a recurring concern with the customer side of the equation. Meeting the customer challenge requires everyone — national policymakers, regulators, financial service providers of all types, non-profits, and global bodies — to step up. The challenges range from protecting consumers in the digital age, to building financial capability, to creating services that enable customers to meet important life goals.

As you read the Progress Report you will see just how many players are actively pursuing these goals in innovative ways all over the world. We cite and celebrate dozens of examples. Nevertheless, we find that in many areas, such as financial capability, the level of effort is not yet commensurate with the challenge at hand, and large shifts are called for, both in deployment of resources and in assignment of roles and responsibilities. For example, we find that meaningful financial inclusion requires providers to take on greater responsibility for customer value.

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In the Progress Report, we present our assessment of progress toward global financial inclusion through the lens of five topics that will shape its future: Financial Capability, Addressing Customer Needs, Technology, Credit Reporting and Data Analytics, and Consumer Protection. The report provides a qualitative and interactive assessment of who is doing what, as a companion piece to By the Numbers. The FI2020 Progress Report celebrates the most significant accomplishments, and highlights the gaps that create the agenda for the coming years.

Aside from the content of the Progress Report, we are excited to share with you the format for its presentation. Rather than producing a traditional document, the report takes the form of an interactive website, which allows you to move from topic to topic according to your own interest, and which allows us to bring you many specific examples and graphic illustrations in sidebars throughout the report. We hope you enjoy the format. (If you prefer a traditional PDF, that is also available.)

To provoke a conversation, we have rated progress in each area on a scale of 1 and 10, and we explain why we chose that score. We invite you to use the interactive feature on the website to cast your own vote and compare your scores to ours. Go ahead, disagree with us! While we stand behind the research and analysis that went into our ratings, they are — of course! — our own, and they reflect a global look, which may vary greatly from one region or country to another.

Most of all, consider with us the ways to close the gaps so that each of the scores rises to 10. That’s the point of this exercise, after all: to diagnose where we are today in order to work toward a future of full, meaningful financial inclusion.

News Round-up

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A special UN report on post-2015 agenda, measures from the World Bank to accelerate progress on malnutrition, and research on how VSLAs affect the well-being of children.Español Français Continue reading

Last Week’s News

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Read our round up of last week’s microfinance news: A Financially Capable Consumer Could Be Your Best Customer, The Future of Provider Ecosystems for Financial Inclusion, How to Build Successful BOP Business Models, and more! Continue reading

Last Week’s News

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A round up of last week’s microfinance news: tests for credit bubbles, a challenge to the “old way” of thinking about microfinance, promising BoP business models in Latin America, and another paper about mbanking. Continue reading