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Closing the remaining gaps in global financial inclusion

Since 2014, half a billion people have obtained a bank account with a financial institution or through a mobile money service, according to the latest Global Findex report from the World Bank. This has pushed the global share of adults with an account up seven percentage points to 69%. In emerging markets, the share rose from 54% to 63%. Gaps persist: Women remain nine percentage points less likely than men to have a bank account in emerging markets.

  • Africa leads in mobile money… One in five Africans now has a mobile money account, making it the only region with greater than 10% penetration (including more than 30% of adults in Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal and more than 40% in Gabon). Bangladesh, Iran, Mongolia and Paraguay have all surpassed 20%.
  • Unbanked but connected… Two-thirds of those without a bank account have a mobile phone, according to the report. In India and Mexico more than half of the unbanked have a mobile phone; in China, that climbs to 80%.
  • Bright spots… India has reduced its gender gap in bank accounts from 20 percentage points to six. Argentina, Indonesia, and South Africa have no significant gender gap. Digital technologies and platforms help bypass traditional branches and serve women, says Zar Wardak of FINCA Impact Finance, a microfinance holding company that runs 20 microfinance institutions and banks on five continents. “We put women at the forefront of product and services development” she told ImpactAlpha.

“Access alone is not inclusion,” warns Michael Schlein, CEO of Accion, a microfinance and fintech impact investor. Customers need “a variety of high-quality, affordable products and services” and must be able to “trust their financial service providers to act responsibly.”

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