5 lessons on expanding financial inclusion and usage

Source

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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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…

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How you can influence global policy priorities at the World Bank (event)

RESULTS is hosting its 35th annual International Conference on Capitol Hill in Washington DC from July 18th to July 21st, featuring many leading poverty experts, activists. and policy makers.

Join us at the 2015 RESULTS International Conference in Washington, D.C., this July 18-21. Leading poverty experts, activists, policymakers, and YOU will convene for a unique conference that mixes an educational experience and advocacy opportunities around increased access to education, health, and economic opportunity. Together, we can change the world!

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In just two weeks, RESULTS Educational Fund, the parent organization of the Microcredit Summit Campaign, will celebrate its 35th anniversary with the 2015 International Conference in Washington, D.C. We invite you to join in the festivities and attend our workshop called “Partnerships to End Poverty: Health, Government, and Financial Services” on Sunday, July 19th at 4:30 – 6:00 PM. The conference will be held at the Washington Court Hotel on Capitol Hill.

Only $85 a day!

RESULTS International Conference — only $85 a day!

Attendees of the International Conference will hear from leading experts, activists, and policymakers on the challenges and solutions to ending poverty. Join World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus (and, of course, founder of the Grameen Bank). Find out who else will be speaking here.

The conference agenda is designed to provide the information and tools to influence policymakers — so you can deliver the message directly to your representative on Capitol Hill and policymakers at the World Bank and USAID!

The Microcredit Summit Campaign’s role at RESULTS is to lift up financial inclusion solutions designed for the world’s extreme poor, creating economic opportunities to help lift themselves out of poverty. The Campaign will be leading a workshop at the International Conference about the future of financial inclusion.

Our session, entitled Partnerships to End Poverty: Health, Government, and Financial Services,” will focus on integrated health and microfinance and linking the graduation model and conditional cash transfers (CCTs). Learn why these are key pathways to help end extreme poverty and how you can influence the global development agenda. (Read more about the six pathways.)

Sonja Kelly of the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion will moderate a panel discussion with Olumide Elegbe of FHI 360 and our own Dr. DSK Rao and Larry Reed. Join us to develop your message and advocacy strategy around financial inclusion to end extreme poverty, and take it directly to major financial inclusion funders like the World Bank and USAID to influence their programmatic priorities in the over coming years.

About the panelists


Sonja Kelly, Fellow, CFI

Sonja Kelly is a fellow at the Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION (@CFI_ACCION). She conducts research on supply and demand side opportunities to advance financial inclusion around the world, including income growth, demographic change, and policy shifts. Ms. Kelly is finishing her PhD at the School of International Service at American University, writing her dissertation on financial inclusion policy and regulation in low and middle income economies. Her research articulates the ways that international organizations and internal politics influence financial sector policy. She is also a consultant at the World Bank and the president of the DC chapter of Women Advancing Microfinance. Prior to joining CFI, Ms. Kelly worked in microfinance at Opportunity International.

Olumide Elegbe Olumide Elegbe, senior relationship manager at FHI 360, is a health and development expert with demonstrated results of building successful partnerships across sectors and geographies. With a focus on forging trusted, long term partnerships between the government, nonprofit and private sectors, Mr. Elegbe has a track record of brokering collaborative partnerships that drive social change by addressing health, education, sustainability and/or other development challenges. This, while delivering results and outcomes tailored to suit the needs of stakeholder individuals and organizations including market access, efficiencies in supply chain, and contribution to local GDP.

Mr. Elegbe has extensive international and cultural experience, spanning sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern and Western Europe as well as the USA. Prior to joining FHI 360, he worked as a public health specialist and a visiting lecturer in population medicine in the United Kingdom, and as technical advisor on public health programs in Nigeria.

Mr. Elegbe holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health with a minor in Health Services Management from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom.

Dr. D.S.K. Rao, Regional Director for Asia-Pacific, Microcredit Summit Campaign

Dr. DSK Rao has been the regional director for the Asia-Pacific region with the Microcredit Summit Campaign since 2000. The Campaign draws heavily on his wide experience and familiarity with the sector while organizing the regional and global summits. Dr. Rao has conducted scores of workshops and trainings on tools for practitioners in Asia to track poverty and other social outcomes including the Cashpor Household Index, Poverty Wealth Ranking, and the Progress out of Poverty Index. Dr. Rao is presently implementing a Johnson & Johnson-funded project for integrating health with microfinance in India, in collaboration with Freedom from Hunger. He has co-authored two books on microfinance: The New Middlewomen and Development and Divinity and Dharma.

Larry Reed, Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign

Larry Reed has headed up the Microcredit Summit Campaign (@MicroCredSummit) since taking over the reins from founder, Sam Daley-Harris in 2011. Mr. Reed has co-authored the annual State of the Campaign Report for the last 5 years. He has worked for more than 25 years in designing, supporting, and leading activities and organizations that empower poor people to transform their lives and their communities. For the majority of that time, Reed worked with Opportunity International, including five years as their Africa regional director and eight years as the first CEO of the Opportunity International Network.


Our workshop will be held on Sunday, July 19th
from 4:30 – 6:00 PM
.

To attend the workshop and the International Conference, email IC2015[at]results.org
or register online

Daily registration is only $85.

RESULTS is an international movement of grassroots advocates raising their voices to end poverty. Through government program and policy advocacy, RESULTS staff and its massive network of grassroots activists help to address the root causes of poverty: lack of access to medical care, education, and opportunity to move up the economic ladder. Click here to read more about RESULTS.


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

Equitas commits to improve focus on clients and service coverage

Read the press release announcing Equitas’ Campaign Commitment
Read their Commitment letter
Photo courtesy of Equitas

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The Microcredit Summit Campaign welcomes Equitas, a major Indian microfinance institution (MFI), as the 56th organization to make a Campaign Commitment, joining a global coalition working to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

Equitas is committing to expand its financial services and non-financial services to the following number of clients in the financial year 2015-2016 :

  • Provide 1.5 million clients with financial services.
  • Cover 70,000 clients under the food security program.
  • Cover 50,000 clients under the health education program.
  • Screen the health of 850,000 clients.
  • Partner hospitals will provide 3,000 Equitas clients discounted consultation/ treatment.
  • Use the Progress out of Poverty Index to measure the poverty level of 1.5 million clients.
  • Provide financial support to 3,000 disabled women.
  • Rehabilitate 200 homeless pavement dwellers.
  • Screen, educate, and track the health of 3,500 students in the 6 schools run by Equitas Trust.
  • Provide gainful employment to 15,000 unemployed youth.
  • Train 50,000 women in new skills to increase their income.

P.N. Vasudevan, founder and managing director of Equitas Micro Finance India P. Ltd., explains their mission and how they support the well-being of their clients:

“When we founded Equitas in 2007, we wanted to create an MFI which would be a global benchmark in fairness and transparency, two facets sadly missing from most of the MFIs globally.  Equitas is a Latin word meaning ‘Equitable,’ which means fair and transparent, and this philosophy is woven into every action of Equitas.  Equitas had started lending at 25.5% in 2007 (at a time when the other MFI rates were in the high thirties) and after 4 years, Reserve Bank of India capped the lending rate for MFIs in India at 26%! The Equitas Ecosystem Model is designed to support the well-being of our clients by providing financial and non financial services with a clear focus to address a large spectrum of their requirements in the field of health, education, skill development, food security during emergencies, placement for unemployed youth and many more.”

Equitas is an NBFC MFI with headquarters at Chennai, India, and operations in eight states, namely Tamil Nadu, Pondy, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chattisgarh. Equitas has about 2.8 million active borrowers as of 31st March, 2015. Along with financial services, Equitas is also promoting several non-financial services aiming at holistic development of their clients and their families.

Read Commitment Letter from Equitas.

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 Equitas and…

Get Inspired. Set a Goal. Make a Commitment.

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

Grama Vidiyal commits to expanding health services to clients

Read the press release announcing Grama Vidiyal’s Campaign Commitment
Read their Commitment letter
Photo courtesy of Grama Vidiyal

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The Microcredit Summit Campaign welcomes Grama Vidiyal, a major Indian microfinance institution (MFI), as the 55th organization to make a Campaign Commitment, joining a global coalition working to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

Grama Vidiyal commits to expand its financial and non-financial services to the following number of clients in the financial year 2015-2016:

  • Provide an additional 150,000 clients with financial services in FY15
  • Help 1,050,000 community members through Grama Vidiyal’s empowerment program.
  • Organize 720 health camps for clients, screening 300,000 members.
  • Provide 10,000 clients with discounted consultation/treatment in partner hospitals.
  • Provide health education to 80,000 client families (or community).
  • Give access to health related products and medicines to 150,000 clients.
  • Help 800,000 clients with the Free Meals program.
  • Install 1,000 household toilet connections and 4,000 water tap connections.
  • Establish 80 Community Knowledge Centers, engaging 30 poor students each (a total of 2,400 students), to motivate learning basic math and English.
  • Help 500,000 clients with the Health Service and Development Program that provides sanitary napkins for women.
  • Use the Progress out of Poverty Index to measure the poverty level of 35,000 clients.

Sathianathan Devaraj, chairman and managing director of Grama Vidiyal, explains the importance of microfinance as a means to financial inclusionhealth:

“Microfinance is a very important tool for financial inclusion, which provides financial services for poor entrepreneurs and small businesses lacking access to formal banking and related services. Microfinance creates a window for the poor where they can access quality financial services such as credit, savings, insurance etc., without inhibition. A double bottom line approach with the right balance of fiscal performance and positive social impact is key to the microfinance’s success. Formal banks identified and promoted bankable people, but microfinance introduced and proved that even the poor are trustworthy and bankable.”

Grama Vidiyal is one of the largest Indian microfinance institutions, serving one million clients over 5 Indian states. Their objective is to focus on eradication of poverty and improving the standard of living of downtrodden women.

Read Campaign Commitment letter from Grama Vidiyal.

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 Grama Vidiyal and…

Get Inspired. Set a Goal. Make a Commitment.

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

Debunking Myths about the Poor and Financial Services

The Wall Street Journal published on September 4th an interesting article entitled Debunking Myths about the Poor and Financial Servicesby Suyash Rai, Senior Manager, and Sona Varma, Senior Advisor, with IFMR Trust, a private trust with the mission of ensuring complete access to financial services for individuals and enterprises in India.The poor are not credit worthy, finance falls lower in the ‘hierarchy’ of needs for the poor, below health or education,credit is the only financial service required by the poor and finally the poor are not sophisticated in using financial services. Read their full article to see how the two authors debunk those 4 major prejudices often held against microcredit.

The forgotten half of rural finance

Is the expression that Robert Vogel uses to qualify the crucial and too often dismissed importance of money-saving. An article published in the Time last week by Barbara Kiviat called “Next Step for Microfinance: Taking Deposits” highlights this issue. One thing that people really need, more than business loans, is a safe place to save their money. The demand for savings accounts sometimes far outstrips the demand for loans. Bank Rakyat in Indonesia, for instance, has 10 savers for every one borrower. “Low-income people need a variety of financial services,” says Bob Christen, director of the financial services group at the Gates Foundation, which has given tens of millions of dollars in grants to savings initiatives.