Does financial inclusion impact the lives of poor people? What should — and shouldn’t — we hope to learn from the explosion of research on this question? And what do we in the financial inclusion community mean by “impact”? Are we talking about access, use, financial health, poverty reduction?
These are some questions CGAP explored in our 2019 blog series “Impact and Evidence in Financial Inclusion: Taking Stock,” which featured three of the year’s top blog posts. Check out these posts and more in this list of our most widely read blogs from 2019.
Over the past decade, there has been an explosion of research on the impact of financial inclusion on the poor. But the lack of a cohesive, nuanced story to bring the evidence together is leading to wildly different and overly simplistic interpretations. In this post, which kicked off the “Impact and Evidence in Financial Inclusion: Taking Stock” series, Mayada El-Zoghbi discusses the need for a theory to connect the dots.
“Many rigorous impact evaluations of water and sanitation interventions find little to no effect on diarrheal disease. Does that mean that there are no benefits of clean water and sanitation? Of course not,” writes NYU Wagner’s Timothy Ogden. In another top blog post in our “Impact and Evidence in Financial Inclusion: Taking Stock” series, Ogden clarifies what we should — and shouldn’t — expect to learn from similar studies on the impact of financial inclusion programs.
In 2019, CGAP shared anonymized transaction data from over 400 low-income M-PESA users in Nairobi, Kenya, along with our analysis of the data. Among our findings was that “mobile money agents are more like petrol stations than barber shops.” What exactly does this mean? Read this year’s third most popular blog post to find out.
Are digital financial services agents being over-regulated? Regulators often treat agents like extensions of bank branches, but the reality is that many agents conduct a more limited range of financial activities and should be regulated differently. CGAP’s head of policy research Greg Chen and senior financial sector specialist Emilio Hernandez argue for a new approach to regulating agents according to what they actually do, not what banks do.
In recent years, the concept of “financial health” has become prominent in financial inclusion circles. But what exactly is it? In another post from our “Impact and Evidence in Financial Inclusion: Taking Stock” series, CGAP’s Matthew Soursourian traces the concept’s origin and purpose and examines whether it could serve as the ultimate goal of the financial inclusion community, as some have suggested.
An overwhelming majority of online sellers and shoppers in Bangladesh are women. Yet CGAP’s research shows that barriers to participating in formal e-commerce, such as the need for a bank account, drive many women into buying and selling on social networks and messaging apps. CGAP’s Yasmin Bin-Humam and pi Strategy’s Pial Islam argue that linking mobile money to this informal type of e-commerce could advance women’s financial inclusion.
Getting cash into and out of the digital system remains one of the main barriers to financial inclusion in emerging markets, even in markets where digital financial services are on the rise. CGAP’s Emilio Hernandez examines global evidence showing that agents continue to play an essential role in advancing financial inclusion. According to Hernandez, investments in expanding agent networks must complement the diversification of use cases in digital financial services.
E-commerce doesn't come up very often in conversations about agent networks for digital financial services — but it should, says CGAP’s Emilio Hernandez. Hernandez describes how leading e-commerce companies are expanding agent networks into remote areas that once seemed out of reach and are home to many low-income, financially excluded customers.
Digital credit is a testament to the ways in which technology and new business models can help financial services reach low-income households. But, CGAP CEO Greta Bull argues, it also points to potential hazards of letting a market develop unchecked.
Publicly available data on the experiences of nearly 100 firms participating in 12 regulatory sandboxes, coupled with survey data from regulators around the world, point to the strengths and limitations of the sandbox concept and its impact on financial inclusion. Ivo Jenik and Sean de Montfort share their top takeaways from this research, including the fact that less than 25 percent of sandbox-tested solutions address financial inclusion.