Five Opportunities for Funding Transparency in Financial Inclusion

Transparency around funding for financial inclusion is a critical building block for effective funder decision-making and coordination, and potentially for impact.  For individual funders, tracking and measuring funding commitments makes it possible to set and assess their strategies, identify opportunities and risks, and coordinate with other funders and partners. For the broader sector, making this data publicly available results in better-informed funding decisions across geographies, themes, and partners. We see several opportunities to further improve transparency and realize these goals.

CGAP has been tracking and publishing information on international funding flows for financial inclusion since 2008 through the annual CGAP Funder Survey. Our work has built on the international development community’s commitments to transparency and accountability through improved disclosure of project-level information for individual donor organizations as well as support for global transparency efforts such as the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) and Aid Transparency Index.

Fifteen years later, there has been significant progress in transparency in funding for financial inclusion. The latest CGAP Funder Survey draws upon data from more than 50 major international funders, both public and private, who collectively committed approximately USD 44 billion to financial inclusion in 2021. Funders continue to regularly report data on their financial inclusion portfolios to CGAP, with sufficient detail on individual projects and investments that enables us to provide relevant and actionable analysis.

The Funding Explorer’s interactive dashboards track active international financial inclusion funding commitments as of December 31, 2021. This video shows users how to break down the data to understand which financial inclusion funders are doing what and where and find potential partners.

There are strong reasons to believe that transparency contributes to more effective funding.  Feedback from participating funders suggests that better data on funding flows provides a global snapshot of market size and activities of major funders to inform strategic directions and internal portfolio management. For example, during the latest round of the survey, one funder reported, “We've had recurrent internal conversations… inspired by CGAP's own reports that discuss what funders are doing, versus what the evidence of impact in our space suggests is needed.” Other funders similarly report using the findings to “get insights on specific funding priorities of other donors”, “contribute towards our evidence mapping exercise”, “define and focus our strategy”, and for “analysis of funding gaps”. Ultimately, conversations and data-driven reflections like these should lead to better-informed funding decisions.

“We've had recurrent internal conversations… inspired by CGAP's own reports that discuss what funders are doing, versus what the evidence of impact in our space suggests is needed.”

Funder participant, CGAP Funder Survey

CGAP has regularly adapted its approach to tracking in response to new developments in the funding landscape and other transparency initiatives such as Publish What You Fund (PWYF). As the financial inclusion sector and the data landscapes continue to evolve, we see five opportunities to further improve the quantity and quality of data:

1. Project data from new international funders

The CGAP Funder Survey captured project-level information for approximately two-thirds of the total USD 68 billion in global estimated funding for financial inclusion in 2021. Much of the rest of the estimate is derived from valuable complementary data on microfinance investments, a research effort that has made important headway in recent years to deepen its coverage of impact funds and help to fill some of the private funding data gaps. Still, many new funders have entered financial inclusion activities, such as corporate foundations and corporations, and there is growing interest in understanding more about the private funding landscape in a context where many public funders are being challenged to do more with less.  Where possible, the CGAP survey has looked for publicly available data for new funders, but the reality is that the majority are private funders who have different accountability mechanisms than public funders and limited incentives to share data on their portfolios, especially at the level of individual investments that would be most valuable to trends analysis and coordination. 

2. Defining and delineating financial inclusion

With financial inclusion increasingly recognized as an enabler of the SDG agenda, financial inclusion objectives and funding are being integrated into "adjacent” sector programming such as agriculture, energy, and education. Furthermore, as the financial sector has matured in many markets, some projects that list a financial institution as a recipient aren’t necessarily intended to strengthen financial sector development, but more so to channel money through it for other objectives.

As a result, measuring financial inclusion funding is an increasingly complex undertaking. CGAP has worked to broaden our scope of project sources to other sectors and to try to surface financial inclusion components from public project databases using keywords or sector tags. We also made an important change to the global estimate calculation of private funding for the latest edition to count exposures/investments in financial sector development across all impact funds, regardless of their sectoral focus (see full methodology for details). However, it sometimes remains difficult to identify financial inclusion components or to assign them a precise dollar value. Using clear keywords in project documentation and assigning percentages to financial sector objectives where possible would enable enhanced analysis.

3. Data on local funding sources

Building on one of CGAP’s strengths as an international donor consortium, CGAP’s data captures international funding sources. As financial inclusion matures as a sector, it is also attracting local sources of funding in many markets, such as private banks, local investors and/or national public development banks. Better country-level data and better data on local funding sources would facilitate coordination among funders and would make data more relevant for local stakeholders and recipients. 

4. Data on financial service provider (FSP) recipients and financing

Data suggest a concentration of funding from development finance institutions (DFIs) in strong, mostly larger microfinance institutions (MFIs) and fintechs that already receive attention from commercial investors. However, little data is publicly available on how much funding specific FSPs receive, with what terms and from whom. Improved transparency on recipients, financing terms, co-financiers, and mobilization of private finance would make it possible to monitor whether public funding actually helps pave the way for private investment and to detect cases of crowding out. 

5. Impact data

Understanding the impact of financial inclusion is more important than ever for accountability and learning—both to understand how it can support the industry’s other goals and to help inform funder prioritization of topics and resources.  This means providing as much information as possible on the impact performance of funding. PWYF recently released a set of evidence-based recommendations for improving the quality and transparency of funding data, including a call for results reporting. Though many funders face various challenges around measuring and reporting impact, adopting recommendations like PWYF’s can help to overcome challenges and foster greater consistency and utility of data across the funder landscape. 

CGAP has made strides to improve our data collection and methodology and we will continue to adapt. However, it’s important to be pragmatic and recognize that some of these opportunities are aspirational and will rely partly upon broader developments in the aid transparency universe, as well as improvements in funders’ own internal systems and willingness to share information. We remain hopeful that over time we will see continued progress and collaborative mobilization around improving the data architecture within the development funding community. Our hope is that bringing greater visibility to funder activities will result in greater impact for underserved communities. 



CGAP’s annual Funder Survey breaks down financial inclusion funding data to offer new intelligence about who’s doing what and where—insights that could be used to inform future development programming and coordination, to ultimately impact the lives of people living in poverty.

The Funding Explorer is a set of seven interactive dashboards reflecting active international financial inclusion funding commitments as of December 31, 2021. The Explorer uses data from the CGAP Funder Survey complemented by publicly available contextual indicators.  
Sub-topics: Funding Trends

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