>>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  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-presidency 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 , questions that we are interested to know the answer to as well.
- Do country commitments make a difference in progress toward financial inclusion?
- To what extent do mobile and other digital technologies advance financial inclusion?
- 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.
 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.
 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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