For decades, donors have been devoting significant resources to microfinance and financial inclusion. Over $25 billion had been committed as of December 2011, according to the most recent CGAP funder survey. Largely as a result of such funding, in many countries today there are successful microfinance institutions and other providers of financial services to the poor. Yet 2.5 billion adults still lack access to formal financial services. Notwithstanding limited successes in a handful of countries, building financial markets that serve the poor appears to be elusive. Why?
We have learned over the years that building a financial market that serves the poor and the excluded is not just about supporting microfinance institutions or other providers interested in the “base of the pyramid.” It’s not just about educating consumers. Or drafting a law. Or creating a credit bureau. It is not about any one of these things on its own. It is about all of these things working together in a system that adapts and innovates to serve the poor.
This blog series will explore several concepts that contribute to building an effective market for the poor.