Non banking financial options

World Bank advocates for digital banking to rope in the poor

In Summary

•Digital Financial Inclusion involves deployment of digital methods to reach financially excluded populations with formal financial services

•There is still limited access to second-generation DFI modes such as credit, insurance and investments

An employee assists a customer to set-up M-Pesa money transfer service on his handset inside a mobile phone care centre in Nairobi, May 11, 2016
An employee assists a customer to set-up M-Pesa money transfer service on his handset inside a mobile phone care centre in Nairobi, May 11, 2016
Image: REUTERS

The World Banks wants governments to incorporate a savings element in their national financial inclusion strategies.

The World Bank’s Financial Inclusion Beyond Payments report released last week is propagating for affordable, flexible and accessible offerings on digital savings accounts.

This, it says, will facilitate integration of digital savings to citizens.

The report also calls for a balance between innovation and risk, to cater for consumers who want not only to save, but to access digitally enabled, market-based wealth-building products.

It notes that while progress has been made in pushing access to digital transactions as well as payment services,  access to second-generation modes of digital financial inclusion, such as credit, insurance and investments is still unlimited.

The G20 forum describes Digital Financial Inclusion as involving deployment of digital methods to reach financially excluded populations with formal financial services custom made to suit their needs.

The report encourages service providers to give consumers options to earmark portions of their salaries and earnings to be channeled to digital savings accounts, in efforts to encourage a savings culture.

It features sub-Saharan African countries and Asia, and notes that many digital savings accounts constitute digital channels to legacy savings accounts at banking institutions, but a number of others, such as M-Shwari in Kenya, M-Pawa in Tanzania, and MoKash in Uganda, are new accounts developed for digital savings.

The report found out that saving at a financial institution is low across the regions studied, due to limited access to savings products among low-income, and rural populations.

For instance, in 2017, only 15 per cent of adults saved at a financial institution in sub-Saharan African, and 17 percent of adults saved at a financial institution in South Asia.

“Low formal saving is also from the perception among low-income individuals that their savings are not large enough to warrant an account at a financial institution," says the report in part.

It says this may entail maintenance fees, minimum balance requirements, and high indirect access costs such as transportation and time to conduct such business.

Mobile network operators (MNOs) partnerships account for a greater share of the digital savings account deployments in sub-Saharan Africa than in Asia.

This reflects the historically mobile centric digital financial service approach in the continent, while bank-oriented digital financial service provision patterns are more in Asian countries.