Reimagining Financial Inclusion: Tackling the flaws…

DATE: 22 March 2022
AUTHOR: Erlijn Sie

We live in a strange world in which you cannot live your life without money, but most people do not have access to it. 

They make a modest living, and save by putting their money under the mattress, invest in buying golden bangles or a cow, get extra money through money lenders, and spread risk across a support network of family and friends. 

People with a modest income do not use formal financial services like a bank account for savings and payments, loans, or credit cards, let alone have access to insurances for health or business-related risks, a pension or mortgage. 

Financial inclusion in the broadest sense is that everybody in the world can make a proper living, and has access to those financial services needed to develop to their full potential. 

Our current formal financial system is intrinsically excluding low-income people, who make up most of the world.

Many of us believe in democracy; however, in financial services it’s not the majority ruling, but instead the majority is excluded, and this is fundamentally wrong.

But it can change.

Professor Muhammad Yunus, acknowledged as the Banker of the Poor and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for Peace for founding the Grameen Bank, has pioneered microcredits and shown that the poor can work to bring about their own development with access to small loans. 

Likewise, Kiva, a peer-to-peer finance platform, has pioneered and scaled a new model of lending to low-income families, and triggered a revolution in peer-to-peer lending around the globe. 

They are game changers, and their organizations are system-changing social enterprises. By thinking out of the box they came up with new inclusive solutions. By showing it could work with their social enterprises and inspiring others to tag along to start doing the same, they made a lasting change. And, technology plays an important role in this.

However, we take the formal financial system for granted, but we’ll need to think outside of the current system to solve the flaws of it, to reach financial inclusion. That is what is equally important. What the game changers featured in “Reimagining Financial Inclusion”, like Kiva and Grameen, have in common is that they all tackle some systemic barriers.

The Five Levers to Tackle the Flaws of the Former Financial System

 

1. Changing the rules

 

Some rules in our system make it very hard for the low income people to progress out of poverty.

Tala is on a mission to expand access to financial products to the emerging middle class globally by rewriting creditworthiness through radical trust by using the mobile phone.

Dynamic behavioral data is the proof behind lying implicit assumptions to be false or incomplete.

2. Everybody plays

 

All of us – men and women, rich and poor – need to be included. For this to happen we need more partners, not just banks and insurers, to join the game of financial inclusion. 

BanQu has developed a supply chain solution for multinationals and an economic identity platform for refugees and people in extreme poverty, and invented a so-called economic passport to vouch for hard work, as a solution to inclusion. 

BanQu offers an opportunity for companies such as Coca-Cola and AB-InBev to financially include people in the ‘last-mile’ of their value chain.

3. Daily life as a playground

 

The use of money is rooted in daily life; however, our formal financial services are absent in slums, rural villages and on the streets where low-income people live. Financial services should be around the corner of where the low-income people live, eat, pray and meet.

Healthy Entrepreneurs, is building rural health markets, selling healthcare products and services from mobile mini pharmacies in remote villages in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. This brings income-generating activities with the adjoining financial services, while simultaneously providing the daily needed health products and services. 

Community health workers are equipped with solar-powered tablets that bring educational and diagnostic health services into the last-mile, while providing for good supply chain management -i.e. reliable and qualitative supply of over-the-counter medicines.

4. Link all players in equality

 

Our formal system offers financial services; however, it’s not integrated with the fulfilment of daily needs of low-income people. 

They need to have a safe place for they money when and where they drop off their produce, after the harvest. They need access to a doctor or affordable medicine, when their baby starts to cough, around the corner of their home, that’s when they would buy a health insurance. 

BIMA is offering mobile-delivered health & other insurance policies, in emerging markets, offering protection through the phone; Not just health insurances, no, unlimited access to a doctor, by phone. 

How come, BIMA is able to do so? 

It’s not just their platform, and large and local sales agent networks, also because they work in close collaboration with mobile network providers and insurers. We need to link with players in several value chains to attach financial service to the daily needs.

5. Play as a group

 

Another crack in the system is that it’s fully geared to support individuals, or an organization acting as ‘one’. 

Social interaction and groups are not -or very limited- considered in our formal financial system, whereas groups, villages and social capital are uniquely well positioned as a lever to ignite inclusion. 

SOLshare is growing a network of rural village solar power grids, empowering solar power prosumers – a household that produces and consumes –, in Bangladesh; meanwhile bringing income, savings, and means to transact and invest. Just by tapping into the power of the village as a group.

The Secret to Success

 

Distilling the features of game changers helps for financial innovations to be scaled through adoption, replication and joining forces with partners. Many game changers encourage others to adopt and replicate their inclusive solution. This attitude of inviting others to join, is so different from ‘business as usual’. 

And here lies the secret to success: an alternative way of organising. By truly empowering the people at the base of the pyramid these game changers serve, they tap into the power of that community. 

It’s the people themselves that take education and marketing forward themselves -illustrated by Healthy Entrepreneurs -, or parts of the production and/or protection -illustrated by SOLshare-. And, here’s where technology could and should play a unique role. 

If we aim for lasting change, we need to work together, and these new ways of organizing of these game changers, show us that we can. 

Technology allows us to do so. It is exactly this magic mix of an inclusive innovation and the alternative way of producing it and bringing it to the low-income families, and the empowering role of platforms and technology, that provides the power to change the game.

Conclusion

 

Tackling the flaws in our financial system is not just for social entrepreneurs or innovators; banks, insurers, financial service providers, should support new models for financial services in collaboration with partners ‘out there.’ 

Big businesses in energy, water, food, fashion, electronics, and fintech and insurtech can also make a difference, to team up and jointly grow financial inclusion. 

If you want to read more and get inspired by the collection of game changers and their partners, “Reimagining Financial Inclusion” presents a promising picture of our inclusive future, and sparks ideas what your role could be.

ERLIJN SIE has 15 years of experience working with multi- nationals and an equivalent number of years leading and growing social ventures. She is the co-founder of Microcredits for Mothers and Credits for Communities and was managing director of the Banking with the Poor Net- work and HandsOn Microfinance. Currently, she works at Ashoka – the world’s largest international network of social entrepreneurs – with blue chip companies to trans- form business into a force for good through collaboration with social innovators. Erlijn has devoted her career to contributing to a more just and inclusive economy. Erlijn holds two Masters degrees in Management Sciences and Asian Studies