#tbt: Digital services to reach the unreachable at the 2013 Summit

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Speakers in the “Reaching Deeper and Lowering Costs: The Path ahead for Digital Services” plenary session at the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit in Manila, Philippines. We learned how mobile devices can help provide better options to those who are reliant upon riskier, costlier options.

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Highlighting technology innovations in the microfinance sector, the plenary session “Reaching Deeper and Lowering Costs: The Path ahead for Digital Services” at the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit was moderated by our very own Sabina Rogers, filling in for Karen Dávila, noted Philippine broadcast journalist.

It was a fun session, using visual aids to represent certain aspects of a value chain for delivering mobile and financial services. A house represented the client and the start of the digital transaction value chain; then images showed the mobile interface for conducting transactions; a sari-sari represented an agent kiosk; a net represented both communications networks as well as financial networks; and a bank stood in for a variety of types of financial institutions.

Speakers were asked to make use of the array to help them illustrate where the companies and organizations the represented fit into the value chain.

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Gordon Cooper, Head of Emerging Market Solutions, APCEMEA, VISA, and Raj Singh-Khaira, Vice President, RM & Consumer Services, FINO PayTech

Nadeem Hussein of Tameer Microfinance Bank (Pakistan) led off the discussion demonstrating how Tameer had a role in supporting a number of points along the value chain overall from understanding the consumer landscape to developing mobile transaction interfaces including working with agents, and all as a financial institution.

Raj Singh-Khaira of FINO PayTech (India) and focused on the need for institutions like his to diversify their involvement in a number of ways along the value chain because “the market is not mature enough for us to be just this one component…the agent kiosk in this example.” He pointed to the wide array of services FINO provides to achieve this diversity including a number of types of savings products, insurance, and some loans.

FINO serves over 67 million clients and employs more than 50,000 agents. Technology is important to help reach this kind of scale as opposed to manual transactions. He also mentioned the ability to better track and secure transactions through the use of digital means of transacting.

The role of VISA was presented by Gordon Cooper. “Visa is a Network, a network service provider. It’s all about interoperability,” cited Cooper; continuing, he described a project VISA launched several years ago which focused on finding one key way VISA could contribute to increasing access to formal financial services for low income individuals.

The result: launching mVISA in Rwanda, a mobile transactions platform (see this video). He focused on the necessity of interoperability, which refers to the ability of one financial service provider’s platform to link up with others’ platforms in order to enable customers on different networks or in different financial systems to transact. Increasing interoperability as a means to support wider access will be one major focus for VISA in the digital area.

Napoleon Nazareno of Smart Communications, one of the largest mobile network operators working in the Philippines, echoed Khaira. Smart is not isolated to only providing mobile phone connectivity, but also goes beyond to touch on all aspects of the value chain. Beginning more than a decade ago, Smart launched a small mobile banking service platform. By partnering with financial service providers over the years, this has now grown into a full-fledged mobile microfinance service platform.

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Ian Radcliffe, Director, WSBI-ESBG

Ian Radcliffe of WSBI illustrated their role in supporting the actors involved in the value chain as direct service providers. Their core activity is advocacy, but apart from that, they also deliver training and consultancy services to providers.

He highlighted an initiative begun about four years ago, to understand what it would it take to double the number of savings accounts among poor people. This launched the WSBI savings account program, which is now working with banks in 10 countries to develop and improve agent banking models and mobile banking models now, too.

Nazareno summarized the session nicely at one point during the presentations, pointing to the power of digital channels for reaching the financially exclude citing recent national survey in the Philippines.

He said, “80% of the households in the Philippines don’t have a bank account. On the other hand, 90% of Filipinos have a cell phone,” which highlights the viability of using mobile devices to provide financial services to those who would otherwise remain excluded. Mobile devices can help provide better options to those who are reliant upon riskier, costlier options, and, ultimately, ones that would stand in the way of their journey out of poverty.

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A participant at the 2013 Summit was having a great time.

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Wamda.com: Understanding microfinance in MENA

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>>by Archana Menon | April 3, 2016

“The Arab world has the lowest level of financial inclusion.”

This was the statement made by Dr. Abdulrahman Al Hamidi, director general and chairman of the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) at the opening of the 18th Microcredit Summit in Abu Dhabi in March.

He cited World Bank data stating that 16 to 17 million small businesses in the Arab region have no access to financing and official financial services.

The theme of the summit, “Frontier Innovations in Financial Inclusion,” attracted 1,000 delegates from 60 countries. Jointly organized by the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, the Arab Gulf Programme for Development (AGFUND), and the Microcredit Summit Campaign, the event was held March 14-17.

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Bdour Alhyari: Enabling the poor to participate in development

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18th Microcredit Summit Video Corner Interview Series

Bdour Alhyari, business development manager for Microfund for Women in Jordan, interviewed by Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway.


Bdour Alhyari of Microfund for Women (Jordan) talks with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway, at the 18th Microcredit Summit. Microfund for Women launched a Campaign Commitment in 2015. Commitments are specific, measurable, and time-bound actions organizations take to support the Campaign goal to help 100 Million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. “It is in our mission to enable and empower women at so many levels,” says Alhyari. “We thought we need to be part of this Campaign and commit to act, encourage others to commit to act.” (Learn more here.)

Microfinance plays “a great role” to help end poverty, says Alyhari, because it enables the financially excluded to gain access to the financial system. “Eighty percent [of the world’s population] are not allowed to access finance. Microfinance provides them with financial resources to enable them to participate in the development of societies, of communities. They [beneficiaries and clients] take the money. They create businesses, they continue their learning, their education, to enable them to be part of the development cycle. Gradually this will help to better livelihoods.”

Finally, Alhyari reflects on her time at the 18th Microcredit Summit. “The Summit has brought so many different expertise from different parts of the world,” she says. “We have shown our experience in microinsurance [and], providing the caregiver program, and we heard about other examples in microinsurance, green energy, and so many other topics, [such as] youth. It was a good platform to have this exchange to look at the expertise of each other and learn from it.”

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Research on Ecuador’s digital platform to be featured at 18th Microcredit Summit

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The Microcredit Summit Campaign, as part of its 6 Pathways, is helping to highlight ways that digital platforms are helping to expand financial inclusion, especially for the extreme poor. We are pleased to share with you this Executive Summary of their research.

At the 18th Microcredit Summit this research will be included in the breakout session “The Digital Revolution and Financial Inclusion.” We hope to see you there!


>> Authored by Jorge Moncayo and Marcos Reis.

Financial systems have a vital role in national economies. They provide savings, credit, payment, and risk management products to society. In this sense, inclusive financial systems — those with a high share of individuals and firms that use financial services — are especially likely to benefit poor people and other disadvantaged groups. On the contrary, poor people must rely on their limited savings to invest in their education or become entrepreneurs. In addition, small enterprises must rely on their limited earnings to pursue promising growth opportunities (Demirguc-Kunt and Klapper, 2012).

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18th Microcredit Summit update: Dates extended at no extra cost

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Responding to intense demand for more sessions, we have decided to extend the days of the 18th Microcredit Summit at no extra charge!
We have some exciting developments with the Summit agenda to share with everyone. Responding to intense demand for more sessions, we have decided to extend the days of the 18th Microcredit Summit at no extra charge!

The new dates will be Monday, March 14th to Thursday, March 17th, so please be sure to plan your travel dates to be in attendance for the Welcome Ceremony, which will now take place in the morning of March 14th. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you, but we hope the program will make it worth your while.

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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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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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5 lessons on expanding financial inclusion and usage

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Source: The 2015 Brookings Financial and Digital Inclusion Project Report: Measuring Progress on Financial Access and Usage.

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>>Authored by Mbaye Niane, 100 Million Project intern

The Center for Technology Innovation (CTI) at the Brookings Institute recently published the 2015 Brookings Financial and Digital Inclusion Project (FDIP) Report and Scorecard. It evaluates access to and usage of affordable financial services across 21 different countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

These countries are geographically, economically, and politically very diverse, but many of their citizens share a common experience of being excluded from formal financial services. Governments from these 21 countries [1] have made a commitment to achieve financial inclusion by improving access to and usage of appropriate, affordable, and accessible financial services. At the Microcredit Summit Campaign, we are mobilizing commitments from private sector actors as well as governments to expand access to and usage of just such high quality financial — as well as non-financial — services.

We know many organizations in the microfinance and financial inclusion sectors affirm a vision of ending poverty. The aim of this coalition is to tie visions to actions and action to achievement. For example, the Technical Secretariat for Disabilities (Secretaría Técnica de Discapacidades) of the Vice-What is a Commitment + Actions to end extreme povertypresidency of the Republic of Ecuador has committed to support 500 entrepreneurial projects led by persons with disabilities through the Productive & Financial Inclusion Network and to implement of a set of poverty measurement indicators that will allow the Technical Secretariat to assess progress in meeting its objectives in serving persons with disabilities.

Brookings’ Financial and Digital Inclusion Project (FDIP) measures the progress achieved in those 21 countries and seeks to answer important questions related to global financial inclusion efforts [2], questions that we are interested to know the answer to as well.

  1. Do country commitments make a difference in progress toward financial inclusion?
  2. To what extent do mobile and other digital technologies advance financial inclusion?
  3. What legal, policy, and regulatory approaches promote financial inclusion?

The FDIP Scorecard assesses the accessibility and usage of financial services in each country using 33 indicators across four dimensions: country commitment, mobile capacity, regulatory environment, and adoption of traditional and digital financial services. This scorecard will help non-governmental organizations, policy makers, private sector representatives, and others examine the best practices for facilitating and measuring financial inclusion.

The FDIP reports that Kenya, South Africa, and Brazil lead the 21 countries overall on financial inclusion. Rwanda and Uganda follow, tied at fourth place. These high-performing countries took the critical steps towards financial inclusion such as policy and regulatory changes. Creating an accessible and affordable path for poor families to use digital technology is a strategic way to get them out of poverty. The FDIP report and scorecard give us valuable information about financial inclusion. It is valuable to show that countries making commitments, solving regulatory issues, and creating an accessible and affordable path for poor families to use digital financial services (i.e., mobile money and e-wallets) is a strategic way to get them out of poverty.

Achieving financial inclusion: Five critical conclusions

The 2015 FDIP Report can be summarized with the following five critical conclusions on how to best expand financial inclusion across the world.

[ONE] Country commitments are vital to reach financial inclusion.

They facilitate knowledge-sharing and engagement among groups and assure that national financial inclusion strategies include measurable targets and a strong coordination across government agencies with the public and private sectors. Country commitments allow the creation of developing surveys that diagnose the status of financial inclusion, a critical step to develop a targeted strategy and assessing the success of future inclusion initiatives.

[TWO] Digital financial services are important for accelerating financial inclusion.

Governments and the private sector will need to increase investments in digital communication and payments infrastructure and ensure services are affordable. The use of digital financial services has grown significantly in recent years among many people who have little or no previous experience with formal financial services. Many households have more than one mobile phone, smartphone or tablet.

We believe that mobile money linked with agent networks in low-income communities is a key financial inclusion strategy — one of our six “pathways” — to help end extreme poverty. According to the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) in 2015 the number of cellular connections through mobile phones, smartphones and tablets increased to more than 7.5 billion and is expected to increase to over 9 billion by 2020. Additionally, smartphone penetration will allow non-bank institutions to expand access to more user friendly interfaces such as mobile financial services. However, for several reasons, feature (or “dumb”) phones will remain the preferred option in many developing community contexts (i.e., poor villages in Africa) for a while still.

[THREE] Geography generally matters less than policy, legal, and regulatory changes.

With this said, there are some regional trends in terms of financial services provision, however. Regulatory and policy changes will likely accelerate financial inclusion outcomes, but in order to promote digital financial services — which, as we explain above, is important for accelerating financial inclusion — countries need a robust digital ecosystem that promotes innovation.

[FOUR] There are many important actors with major roles and they need to coordinate closely.

Central banks, ministries of finance and communication, regulated banks and non-bank financial providers, and mobile network operators each have a major role in achieving financial inclusion. They should closely coordinate with respect to advances in policy, regulation, and technology to ensure a vibrant and inclusive financial ecosystem.

The Microcredit Summit Campaign organized a Field Learning Program last year for ministers and directors of social protection programs in Africa who were interested to learn how to replicate and scale up important, accessible, and affordable financial services to the extreme poor. They observed how flagship programs like Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program are combating extreme poverty pairing financial services with social protection programs. In Mexico, they examined how the government and regulatory authorities coordinate with financial entities and technology companies to deliver a conditional cash transfer (CCT) program. The national development bank, BANSEFI, plays an integral role as a facilitator of cash transfers and an accounting hub for the social protection program.

[FIVE] Tackle the gender gap and address diverse cultural contexts with respect to financial services.

Solving these two problems will help achieve global financial inclusion. For example, formal financial service providers encounter mistrust and a lack of awareness. Public and private sector leaders need to educate the public about these services and mobilize their efforts to improve the efficiency and reliability of communication networks.

The FDIP Scorecard

The FDIP Scorecard provides us an overall ranking for each country on the rate of financial inclusion, a country’s commitment, the mobile capacity, the regulatory environment, and adoption of traditional and digital financial services.

The FDIP Report and Scorecard are instructive to us as we pursue our advocacy on uptake of the six pathways (mobile money, integrated health and microfinance). The FDIP report and scorecard hold valuable information that can provide positive guidance to the design and delivery of financial inclusion interventions. This report strengthens the growing body of evidence demonstrating effective ways of reaching the hardest to reach and poorest individuals with programs that support their sustained progress out of poverty.

The scorecard offers an easy-to-understand progress report on financial inclusion commitments. How can we assess, in the future, progress made on Campaign Commitments?

Here is an example of one of the 21 scorecards in the report:

We hope this report provides strength to the growing body of evidence demonstrating effective ways of reaching the hardest to reach and poorest individuals with programs that support their sustained progress out of poverty.


Footnote

[1] The 21 countries are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, and Zambia.

[2] John D. Villasenor,West, Darrell M., and Lewis, Robin J. The 2015 Brookings Financial And Digital Inclusion Project Report. Pg.3: http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Research/Files/Reports/2015/08/financial-digital-inclusion-2015-villasenor-west-lewis/fdip2015.pdf?la=en


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

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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.

Addressing the financial needs of the most excluded

Anowara Begoum lives in Kazipara village. Anowara received a cow and goat to from BRAC through its STUP Special Targeting Ultra Poor. AusAID funds BRAC's work in Bangladesh, its estimated that BRAC works within 70,000 of Bangladesh's 86,000 villages. Photo: Conor Ashleigh for AusAID.

Anowara Begoum lives in Kazipara village. Anowara received a cow and goat to from BRAC through its STUP Special Targeting Ultra Poor. AusAID funds BRAC’s work in Bangladesh, its estimated that BRAC works within 70,000 of Bangladesh’s 86,000 villages. Photo: Conor Ashleigh for AusAID.

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

>> Authored by Larry Reed, Director, the Microcredit Summit Campaign, and Jesse Marsden, Research and Operations Manager, the Microcredit Summit Campaign

In collaboration with the CFI’s process to develop the Financial Inclusion 2020 Progress Report (to be released October 1, 2015), the Microcredit Summit Campaign recently conducted interviews with microfinance leaders* around the world committed to reaching the most excluded. In this post, we share some of the insights from these conversations about how to ensure that the most invisible clients are financially included, directly drawn from the experiences of those who are doing it.

To set the stage, Luis Fernando Sanabria, general manager of Fundación Paraguaya, made this central point: “Our clients need to be the protagonists of their own development stories. Our products should be the tools they use to meet their needs and empower their aspirations.” With that reminder of the purpose of financial inclusion, we begin the discussion by asking who are the most excluded.

In each country, people living in extreme poverty (below US$1.25 a day) make up the largest segment of those excluded from the financial system. We spoke with leaders from organizations that make intentional efforts to reach this large excluded market: Fundación Paraguaya, Pro Mujer, Fonkoze, Plan Paraguay, Equitas, Grama Vidiyal, and TMSS. These organizations not only address poverty, but also a host of other dimensions that lead to exclusion, including literacy, race, gender, physical disabilities, and age. Less frequently-discussed reasons for exclusion include sexual orientation, language barriers (especially among indigenous populations), and mental or emotional health issues. In India and Bangladesh, for example, those interviewed noted that the lack of personal identification often drove exclusion, especially among women, persons with disabilities, and the socially excluded, such as transgender individuals.

In order to reach the most excluded, you have to know who they are. “Often the poorest families are invisible in their own communities,” said Steve Werlin of Fonkoze in Haiti. “When we do the wealth rankings in a community, they aren’t even mentioned.” Fonkoze takes steps to make sure that all households get included in their surveys so that the community can see who they have left out. Creating this visibility is essential. On a wider scale, in government statistics on economic activity, data on people over 65 is simply discarded or never collected.

Everyone, and every client, is unique. One of the messages of the FI2020 Progress Report is that the base of the pyramid (BoP) is not a monolithic bloc. Arjun Muralidharan of Grama Vidiyal in India noted, “You need to have a particular and unique strategy to seek out and serve these groups. This begins with deciding who you are going after. Different populations have very different problems.”

Two key elements for including the most excluded populations are building trust and overcoming prejudice. Not only do the financially excluded need to become confident in their services providers’ ability to responsibly manage their money, but they often have to become comfortable participating in a society that has regularly closed its doors to them.

“Working with disenfranchised groups is hard. We need to provide extra training and services to help overcome their self-exclusion,” said Muralidharan. Grama Vidiyal provides health services and legal rights training to members of the Dalit group (formerly known as untouchables) before including them in savings and lending groups.

On the other side of the equation are financial services staff attitudes. “In order to include people with disabilities, we need to train our staff first, to get them to overcome their prejudice,” said John Alex of Equitas in India. Equitas provides disability awareness training for its staff and clients and encourages them to find people with disabilities in their communities to include in the institution’s borrowing groups. Equitas also adapted its training and application systems to be accessible for people who are blind, deaf, mute, or face other physical limitations.

Excluded groups may have financial needs that do not fit the typical cash flows of other clients. TMSS asked rural farmers in northern Bangladesh what programs the farmers felt would be best to introduce. This client-first approach led to new programs that combined loans and savings in sync with the growing season. TMSS also changed its policies and products to meet the needs of an aging population — eliminating its age limit for borrowers. The institution also provides savings services for these clients and training for the next generation of family members to make sure they will be cared for as they age.

Those excluded from financial services often face many other types of exclusion as well, leaving them with a range of constraints that they need to address:

  • Both Fonkoze and Plan Paraguay employ the Ultra Poor Graduation Model developed by BRAC that provides a combination of cash transfers, training, savings, an asset, mentoring, and access to credit.
  • Equitas works with homeless people and provides housing and financial capacity training before providing loans.
  • TMSS provides health services, financial capability training, and vocational training.

These organizations often partner with the government and others to make sure their clients have access to the range of services they need. Fundación Paraguaya uses its Poverty Stoplight monitoring system to assess its clients on a checklist of 50 items related to poverty, health, education, and employment. It uses this data to bring in government services for common areas of need. Equitas partners with local hospitals, and Grama Vidiyal works with the government health insurance system to provide for the health needs of clients.

Achieving financial inclusion requires consistent energy to attain, maintain, and measure progress. Fundación Paraguaya uses its Stoplight system to enable clients to define and measure their own achievements over time, and provides incentives to its staff based on these clients’ achievements. Equitas provides incentives to its account officers for including persons with disabilities and measures the progress of its clients along consumption and health indicators. Plan Paraguay and Fonkoze measure the success of their ultra-poor graduation programs based on the numbers of clients who “graduate,” having met a comprehensive set of indicators related to food security, income security, asset ownership, school enrollment, housing quality, etc., and having reached a level at which they can use unsubsidized financial services.

Financial inclusion has always been about going where others wouldn’t go, addressing the needs of people who were excluded because it was too hard to serve them, or too risky, or too unsustainable. The people we spoke with represent the many financial pioneers who use innovation to expand the boundaries of inclusion, reaching those assumed to be impossible to reach.

For more on addressing client needs, check out the interactive FI2020 Progress Report, launching on Thursday (10/1).

Persons interviewed for this post: Luis Fernando Sanabria, Fundación Paraguaya; Carmen Velasco, co-founder of Pro Mujer; Steve Werlin, Fonkoze, Haiti; Mariella Greco, Plan Paraguay; John Alex, Equitas, India; Arjun Muralidharan, Grama Vidiyal, India; and Munnawar Reza, TMSS, Bangladesh.

Post-MDG 3: Achieve gender equality to tackle the root causes of poverty

Millennium Development Goals: 2015 Progress Chart
Published articles to date: Introduction | MDG 1 | MDG 2 | MDG 3 | MDG 4

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The United Nations recently issued The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015, the latest assessment of progress towards the eight MDGs. In short, they have had mixed results. This article is part of a blog series reflecting on the MDGs and the U.N. report. These are produced in partnership with our colleagues at RESULTS (our parent organization).

MDG 3 is focused on gender equality and empowering women. Many MFIs are actively working to address gender inequality and to empower women in their own corner of the world. A dozen organizations have so far made a Campaign Commitment specifically targeting women. For example, Grama Vidiyal launched a Commitment will help 500,000 clients in India with their Health Service and Development Program that provides sanitary napkins for women. Crecer (Bolivia) committed to continue to prioritize services for female clients. CRECER has 152,000 clients and will grow 3 percent per year to reach 166,000 clients by the end of 2017 while maintaining a rate of 80 percent women clients.


>>Kristin Smith, former intern for the 100 Million Project

MDG 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

As the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) rapidly approaches, we are called to evaluate the significant and substantial progress made across the board in addressing the root causes of global poverty. The final MDG report, recently released by the United Nations (U.N.), documents the global 15-year effort to achieve the aspirational goals set out in the Millennium Declaration, highlighting the vast successes while acknowledging the substantial gaps that remain.

The number of people living in extreme poverty, the proportion of undernourished people in developing regions, and the global under-five mortality rate have all decreased by more than half; however, despite these remarkable statistics, millions are still being left behind due to their sex, age, disability, ethnicity, or geographic location.

As we aim to continue substantial advances in reducing global poverty through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, or “Global Goals”), we must renew our efforts to focus on the most vulnerable populations.

Target 3.A: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

The importance of achieving gender equality arguably extends into every facet of society. MDG 3 aimed to address parity in education, political participation, and economic empowerment and emphasized the crucial role of women in achieving the other seven MDGs as well.

At the Council on Foreign Relations in 2004, economist Gene Sperling noted that “girls’ education is an integral part to virtually every aspect of development, and what is just striking is the amount of hard, rigorous academic data that is not only about what girls’ education does in terms of returns for income and for growth, but in terms of health, AIDS prevention, the empowerment of women, and prevention of violence against women.”

Women are proven to be key contributors to large development payoffs such as increased economic productivity and reduced maternal and infant mortality. This final report reiterates that “the education of women and girls has a positive multiplier effect on progress across all development areas.”

MDG-infographic-3

Indicator 3.1 Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education

In reviewing key statistics highlighted in the report, progress towards MDG 3 seems promising, yet further analysis paints a rather dreary picture. While the developing regions as a whole have eliminated gender disparity in primary, secondary, and tertiary education, this comes only as a result of averaging progress with the few prosperous regions. In South Asia, for example, female primary school enrollment has surpassed boys’: from 74 girls for every 100 boys in 1990 to 103 girls for every 100 boys today.

However, looking at the Gender Parity Index (GPI), defined as the ratio of the female gross enrollment ratio to the male gross enrollment ratio for each level of education, certain regions have backtracked on progress since 2000. GPI has decreased at the primary level in East Asia, at the secondary level in Oceania, and at the tertiary level in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Indicator 3.2 Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector

Women still face discrimination in access to work and economic assets, and they lack sufficient representation in public and private decision-making roles. The most prevalent barriers to women’s employment, as noted in the report, are household responsibilities and cultural constraints.

Distribution of working-age women and men (aged 15 and above) by labour force participation and employed women and men by status in employment, 2015 (percentage)

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Indicator 3.3 Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament

Since the launch of the MDGs, women have gained significant ground in political representation. The average proportion of women in parliament has nearly doubled over the past 20 years; however, there remains significant work to be done with only one in five members being women. Organizations like UN Women help focus future development efforts on including women as a key demographic in global development, as poverty remains a heavily feminized condition.

Distribution of countries* in the developing regions by status of gender parity target achievement in primary, secondary and tertiary education, 2000 and 2012 (percentage)

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Onward with the Global Goals for Sustainable Development

Despite uneven progress and persistent inequalities, the MDGs helped to lay an ambitious framework for the long-term effort of tackling the root causes of global poverty.

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development, or SDGs, are intended to build on the successes of the MDGs and tackling problems where they fell short. While some people complain that there are too many goals, they have been designed with an eye toward promoting concise and reasonable actions. Perhaps that requires 17 goals and 169 indicators. In analyzing the draft language of the successor Global Goals, it is important to note the widespread presence of important phrasings such as “inclusive” and “for all.”

UN Women advocated for a stand-alone goal to achieve gender equality, similar to the MDGs. SDG 5 is “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls;” this means tackling violence against women as well as ensuring equal economic and leadership opportunities, property rights, equal policies, social protection, and more. This singularly focused goal is crucial to creating a ripple effect for the integration of gender equality throughout the other goals.

Reaching full equality and empowerment for women and girls remains a crucial requirement to achieving full and sustainable development.


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WSBI’s journey in making small-scale savings work

WSBI_Mobile Popote product Tanzania_605

Mobile banking service, Popote, in Tanzania, allows savings banks clients to access their account information anywhere. Photo courtesy of WSBI

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>>Authored by Ian Radcliffe, Director, WSBI-ESBG, Belgium

WSBI has long been a supporter of the Microcredit Summit Campaign and its goal of helping 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. As an organisation that represents the interests of approximately 6,000 savings and retail banking institutions across 80 countries, advancing financial access and financial usage for everyone is core to our members’ missions.

In fact, it is part of a heritage that can be traced back to our members’ roots that in some cases go back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries in promoting self-help among poor communities. And, since it has nowadays become broadly accepted that financial inclusion brings material economic and societal benefits including lifting people out of poverty, the Microcredit Summit Campaign’s mission is entirely congruent with WSBI and its members’ values.

Our Commitment to the Microcredit Summit Campaign was announced during the 2013 Microcredit Summit in the Philippines and renewed again at last year’s Summit in Mexico. Our commitment focuses on two elements:

  1. Identifying successful inclusive finance strategies for youth markets.
  2. Holding events with our partners and member banks to share knowledge about pricing research and the implications on offering savings products for the poor.

Both Commitments have been pursued under the auspices of WSBI’s major financial inclusion program that started in 2008 and that will come to an end later this year. The program’s aim was to significantly increase the number of savings accounts among the poor, working with savings and retail banks primarily in 10 countries [1]. We were developing new business models and distribution channels and, in many cases, taking advantage of mobile technology.

At the end of this particular journey, we are delighted that six of the banks that sustained projects throughout the life of the program doubled savings accounts, and their growth continues. They have developed business models based on lower-income populations and in so doing, these six banks have undergone significant internal cultural shifts, leading to strengthened identities by clarifying their market positioning. One bank even managed to turn a 75 percent dormant customer base into a 75 percent active one with almost all improvement coming from modest-turnover, low-balance savings accounts.

WSBI_agent with mobile money El Salvador_285

Making small-scale savings work in a digitized world
September 23, 2015
Four Seasons Hotel | Washington, D.C.
8:15 AM to 2 PM
Learn more

The banks’ projects were inevitably supported by a great deal of research and analysis performed by WSBI (including the youth research referred to in our Campaign Commitment), which is available on our website. And, apart from project implementation, the core goals of the program included articulating and disseminating lessons learned to a variety of stakeholders, which is where the Campaign Commitment of holding events with partners and member banks comes in.

On September 23rd, WSBI will run its final major event under this program: a workshop in Washington, D.C., entitled Making small-scale savings work in a digitized world.” We will showcase the successes and challenges faced by the banks that participated with us in our journey. Panel sessions and debates will address how banks and their projects have evolved to adapt to changing environments and competitive pressures. We will explore how strategies, institutional cultures, and practices have adapted as a consequence of program lessons. We will also examine what remains to be done and how the banks and others see the way forward.

The accumulated learning on display at “Making small-scale savings work in a digitized world” will be of clear interest to savings and retail banks, policymakers, and other practitioners involved in the financial inclusion world. The program and registration may be found here; participation is free and we really encourage anyone interested to join us at this workshop.

As we all work together in progressing our journey towards full financial inclusion, WSBI remains committed to continuing its work in this field, as witnessed by its commitment to the Universal Financial Access 2020 goal announced at the World Bank Group’s 2015 Spring Meetings. We are actively forging new partnerships aimed at addressing critical legal and regulatory reforms needed to facilitate WSBI members’ activities in improving financial access. We will continue to support the development of financial infrastructures that are tailored to individual environments. We will draw on the wealth of experience generated by our savings program to support savings and retail banks by way of advisory services aimed at overcoming technical or capacity shortcomings and promoting cultural or behavioral change. And finally, more than ever these days, we will support banks in adapting to the digitized world in which we all now exist to stimulate innovation so as to reach out to new customers, in particular those who currently have little or no access to financial services.

Footnote

[1] Mainly Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Indonesia, Kenya, Lesotho, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Vietnam. Initiatives have also been pursued during 2015 in Ghana and Sri Lanka.


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ESAF Microfinance commits to comprehensive services for clients

ESAF Microfinance trains community health workers and organizes health fairs for their clients and poor communities. Photo courtesy of ESAF Microfinance
— Read the press release announcing ESAF Microfinance’s Campaign Commitment
— Read their Commitment letter

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The Microcredit Summit Campaign welcomes ESAF Microfinance as the 57th organization to make a Campaign Commitment. ESAF joins a global coalition to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty. ESAF will help support their clients in uplifting themselves from poverty by providing them with education, training, and support services.

ESAF and the Campaign strongly believe that microfinance services should be complemented by education, training, and other supporting programs that help poor families battle chronic poverty and social exclusion. For example, in partnership with the Campaign, ESAF trained community health workers (Arogya Mithras in Hindi) to provide health education and front-line screening services for non-communicable diseases to poor communities. You can learn about that project in “Integrating Health with Microfinance: Community Health Workers in Action.”

For the financial year 2015-2016, ESAF Microfinance aims to reach out to new clients through its products and services, committing to the following:

  1. To offer microfinance services to 200,000 new clients through expanding the geographic reach in some of the backward states of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Bihar.
  2. To increase the reach of financial services to an additional 10% of clients, making it to a total of 50% of clients who belong to socially backward communities/tribes (scheduled castes and scheduled tribes as per government of India)
  3. To offer livelihood support services to at least 10,000 clients who shall be in a position to contribute to the income of their household.
  4. To measure the poverty levels of 200,000 clients using PPI.
  5. To offer financial literacy training to at least 50,000 clients.
  6. To offer health education and awareness sessions to at least 50,000 clients and to offer health check-up services to benefit at least 5,000 clients.
  7. To offer financial and non-financial services to at least 3,000 PWD (persons with disabilities) clients.
  8. To offer women’s leadership and empowerment programs to benefit at least 50,000 clients.
  9. To reach at least 2,000 children through educational programs for academic growth and value education.
  10. Educate at least 50,000 clients on environment protection and use of clean energy products.

Chairman and managing director, K. Paul Thomas, explains why their commitment includes a number or programs addressing multiple aspects of the client’s life such as health:

“ESAF’s vision and mission very clearly emphasize on holistic transformation of its poor clients,” he said, “and, we are convinced this cannot be achieved unless their health issues are addressed.”

ESAF Microfinance is one of the premier microfinance institutions in India today, particularly in Kerala, effectively empowering 750,000 members through 160 dedicated branches. The founder of ESAF ventured into microfinance in 1995, by organizing self-sustainable groups, to alleviate poverty and generate employment. Since then, ESAF has grown by leaps and bounds in the microfinance sector, promoting microfinance as a viable, sustainable, and effective means for creating jobs and reducing poverty.

Read the Commitment Letter from ESAF Microfinance.

The Microcredit Summit Campaign looks forward to welcoming our new partners to the global coalition and sharing their progress towards the Commitment achievement at the 18th Microcredit Summit. The Campaign’s 100 Million Project is building a movement among financial service stakeholders committed to helping to end extreme poverty through: public statements of commitment to action, expanding practices to reliably measure movement out of extreme poverty, and promoting innovations and best practices to accelerate movement out of poverty.


We invite you to join ESAF Microfinance and…

Get Inspired. Set a Goal. Make a Commitment.

Join the movement to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty:

Does your microfinance program improve newborn survival?

Products provided to microfinance clients through the “Healthy Mothers, Health Babies” project in the Philippines implemented by the Microcredit Summit Campaign, Freedom from Hunger, and CARD MRI. The products included are selected for their usefulness to women soon to give birth.

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>>Authored by Larry Reed, Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign

Research from the World Health Organization shows that half of the decline in under-5 child deaths is due to factors outside the health sector. In addition to health improvements, advancements in girls’ education, women’s economic status, water, sanitation and hygiene, energy, and infrastructure all make a vital difference. We believe that the microfinance sector has an important role to play in bringing child mortality down even further.

At the Microcredit Summit Campaign, we know how powerful integrating health programs can be. Microfinance institutions (MFIs) that offer health products and services to their clients help them to manage shocks and improve the health of clients and their families. In partnership with Freedom from Hunger and with the support of Johnson & Johnson, we are working with microfinance partners in India and the Philippines to provide health products and services to hundreds of thousands of families.

In the Philippines, our project focuses on improved health outcomes for pregnant women and their newborns. To date, CARD MRI (our local partner) has delivered the “Healthy Pregnancies Make Healthy Communities” education to nearly 300,000 women clients. The education is delivered using an innovative pictorial learning conversation (PLC) methodology developed by Freedom from Hunger. This PLC module distills important information about pre- and post-natal care into easily digested 15-minute segments.

An image from the “Healthy Pregnancies Make Healthy Communities” PLC. It teaches about the importance of visiting a health facility throughout the pregnancy.

An image from the “Healthy Pregnancies Make Healthy Communities” PLC. It teaches about the importance of visiting a health facility throughout the pregnancy. Contact Cassie Chandler at Freedom from Hunger to learn more about the education module.

At the Community Health Day events organized under the project, thousands of women (pregnant and with newborns) also get free consultations and medical checkups — many for the very first time. In addition, attendees have learned important information for ensuring healthy pregnancies and healthy newborns. Medical professionals have delivered lectures on family planning, signs and symptoms to be aware of during pregnancy, as well as prenatal care like nutrition during pregnancy and post-natal care like breastfeeding or caring for a newborn.

The Campaign is helping CARD and other members of the MFIs for Health consortium to leverage this small, one-time grant by building a strong, local resource base for their work. Through our Campaign Commitments, we are mobilizing microfinance actors around the world to take specific, measurable, and time-bound actions to address the multiple dimensions of poverty. We hope to do the same in the Philippines to improve the health of microfinance clients and their families.

Mapping integrated solutions

An effort is underway to develop a new online map to capture such programs around the world. Called the Newborn Survival Map, this initiative hopes to encourage the development of cross-sector partnerships delivering integrated solutions. In our experience, when an MFI hesitates to introduce health programs, it is often because they say that their job is to provide financial services, not health. In this case, partnering with health development organizations and other health sector actors is a viable alternative to offering health services in-house. The map could direct your organization to potential future partners in health.

The Newborn Survival Map will initially focus on 16 countries where newborn deaths are concentrated (see the map below). It will focus on programs with a total value of US$500,000 and above across 14 different sectors whose work greatly impacts newborn survival. Note that this threshold is for the life of the project and represents a total investment. Investments will also be tracked by sub-region, so it may be that an organization has a series of smaller investments in different locations or over a period of time, but the total current and planned investment for their work in a sub-region may equal or exceed the $500,000 threshold.

Priority countries (MDG 4, child mortality)

Priority countries are India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, China, Ethiopia, Angola, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Sudan, Sierra Leone, and Niger. Send in your program information by August 24th to be sure that you are included in the Newborn Survival Map.

The initiative is led by FHI 360, an international development organization, in partnership with the MDG Health Alliance and Johnson & Johnson. FHI 360 and partners invite actors in the microfinance sector to take part in this exciting initiative. We encourage you, our audience, to make sure that significant microfinance programs — especially those benefiting women of reproductive age — are represented on The Newborn Survival Map.

The Newborn Survival Map is in collaboration with the Every Newborn Action Plan and in support of the UN Secretary-General’s Every Woman Every Child movement.

Take action today!

Email Christina Blumel (cblumel[at]fhi360.org) with the name and email of a contact person in your organization who will be responsible for getting your microfinance program included on the map. Christina will guide your colleague through the necessary steps to an online form, which takes approximately 20 minutes to fill out.

Many thanks for your partnership as we enter the Sustainable Development Goal era where achievement of the ambitious new goals will require unprecedented levels of collaboration. Read the letter from Leith Greenslade of the MDG Health Alliance inviting your organization to be part of this exciting initiative (and en français).

About the organizations responsible for the map

The MDG Health Alliance is an initiative of the UN Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals and for Malaria. The Alliance operates in support of Every Woman Every Child, an unprecedented global movement spearheaded by the Secretary-General to mobilize and intensify global action to improve the health of women and children.

FHI 360 is a nonprofit human development organization dedicated to improving lives in lasting ways by advancing integrated, locally driven solutions. Our staff includes experts in health, education, nutrition, environment, economic development, civil society, gender, youth, research and technology — creating a unique mix of capabilities to address today’s interrelated development challenges. FHI 360 serves more than 70 countries and all U.S. states and territories.

At Johnson & Johnson, our Credo inspires our strategic philanthropy to advance the health of communities in which we live and work, and the world community as well. We focus on saving and improving the lives of women and children, preventing disease among the most vulnerable, and strengthening the health care workforce. Together with our partners, we are making life-changing, long-term differences in human health.


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