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Financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.
Being able to have access to a transaction account is a first step toward broader financial inclusion since a transaction account allows people to store money, and send and receive payments. A transaction account serves as a gateway to other financial services, which is why ensuring that people worldwide can have access to a transaction account is the focus of the World Bank Group’s Universal Financial Access 2020 initiative.
Financial access facilitates day-to-day living, and helps families and businesses plan for everything from long-term goals to unexpected emergencies. As accountholders, people are more likely to use other financial services, such as credit and insurance, to start and expand businesses, invest in education or health, manage risk, and weather financial shocks, which can improve the overall quality of their lives.
Great strides have been made toward financial inclusion and 1.2 billion adults worldwide have gotten access to an account since 2011. Today, 69% of adults have an account.
Moving from access to account to account usage is the next step for countries where 80% or more of the population have accounts (China, Kenya, India, Thailand). These countries relied on reforms, private sector innovation, and a push to open low-cost accounts, including mobile and digitally-enabled payments.
However, close to one-third of adults – 1.7 billion – are still unbanked, according to the latest Findex data.
About half of unbanked people include women poor households in rural areas or out of the workforce.
The gender gap in account ownership remains stuck at 9 percentage points in developing countries, hindering women from being able to effectively control their financial lives. Countries with high mobile money account ownership have less gender inequality.
• Financial inclusion has been identified as an enabler for 7 of the 17 Sustainable Development
The G20 committed to advance financial inclusion worldwide and reaffirmed its commitment to implement the G20 High-Level Principles for Digital Financial Inclusion.
• The World Bank Group considers financial inclusion a key enabler to reduce extreme poverty and
boost shared prosperity, and has put forward an ambitious global goal to reach Universal Financial Access (UFA) by 2020.
Since 2010, more than 55 countries have made commitments to financial inclusion, and more than 60 have either launched or are developing a national strategy. When countries take a strategic approach and develop national financial inclusion strategies which bring together financial regulators, telecommunications, competition and education ministries, our research indicates that when countries institute a national financial inclusion strategy, they increase the pace and impact of reforms.
Countries that have achieved the most progress toward financial inclusion have:
• Policies delivered at scale, such as universal digital ID – India and Aadhaar / JDY accounts – more than 1.2 billion residents covered
• Leveraged government payments. (For example, 35% of adults in low income countries receiving a government payment opened their first financial account for this purpose.)
• Allowed mobile financial services to thrive. (For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa, mobile money account ownership rose from 12% to 21%.)
• Welcomed new business models, such as leveraging e-commerce data for financial inclusion
• Taking a strategic approach by developing a national financial inclusion strategy (NFIS) which bring together diverse stakeholders including financial regulators, telecommunications, competition and education ministries
• Paying attention to consumer protection and financial capability to promote responsible, sustainable financial services