It’s been a year since the Financial Inclusion 2020 Global Forum. The Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is taking this moment to review how the drive for financial inclusion is faring. With this e-zine we bring you highlights of the past 12 months from around the financial inclusion world – new ventures, milestones and ongoing debates. Inside, you’ll find a snapshot of progress in each of our five “Roadmap to Inclusion” areas, from technology-enabled business models to consumer protection. Over the past months we spoke with dozens of industry participants to gauge their views of the progress of each major recommendation presented at the Global Forum,and we’ve distilled their responses here. We learned of many exciting initiatives, though we have room to cite only a few.
There are a lot of intractable problems in the world, but a central message of FI2020 is that financial inclusion for all is within our reach. Smart people are innovating in all spheres, with regulators, financial service executives, mobile operators, and start-up entrepreneurs each making dramatic progress. Politicians are catching the vision, and governments are developing national financial inclusion strategies. Perhaps most promising, a number of private sector companies have moved financial inclusion from corporate social responsibility to a business strategy that they believe will profitably reach new markets. Along the way, they are linking with new actors, such as retailers, suppliers and distributors, in effect re-imagining the ecosystem for financial inclusion.
Yet there is much to be done. Access cannot be taken for granted—just ask the people working on the technology front to reach remote areas. But in many ways, the greater challenge is quality. Let’s not forget that financial inclusion means that everyone who can use them has access to a range of quality services at affordable prices, delivered with convenience, respect, and dignity. Financial services are essential tools to allow people to manage their assets, and they facilitate global development goals. Yet in the rush to inclusion, we need to pause to ask a few questions. Are we reaching new markets with the right services that people will use to help themselves toward financial health? Do we have adequate protections for vulnerable customers? How can entry products become on-ramps to full inclusion across the range of services? How can what we have learned—such as insights from behavioral economics—be put into action? Who is being left behind?
The original vision of microfinance for poor entrepreneurs has inspired a movement that now encompasses a full range of financial services for all, powered by a diverse range of players. In the year since the FI2020 Global Forum, much has been accomplished, and much remains to be done. We now invite you to scan the rest of this e-zine for a glimpse of both the opportunities and the challenges ahead as we march toward 2020.