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Opinion

Saving financial inclusion

It needs to be about more than helping people to move money.

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I have always been a little wary of the increasing focus on financial inclusion. 

Call me a sceptic, but when profit-generating institutions speak of creating products to serve the poor, I get apprehensive. 

Being part of a formal financial system is undeniably helpful. Dealing in cash comes with security risks and being banked leads to the building of a financial profile that makes it easier to access credit to smooth cashflows or to put towards investment in education or a business. 

I need no convincing that society requires people to be part of a formal financial system in order to thrive, nor that exclusion, whereby products and services are not available or are unaffordable, needs to be addressed. 

But it feels like financial inclusion has been engulfed by a focus on payments and transactions that misses its larger aim. In the World Bank’s commitment to universal financial inclusion, are we just trying to get the two billion people around the world who are unbanked into a financial system so they can transact with greater ease, or are we trying to help them step out of poverty? 

I had thought it was the latter, but the latest data from the World Bank’s Global Findex report concerns me




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