The Mastercard Foundation Symposium

Financial Inclusion 2016 Report

Highlights from the Symposium


Thank you for joining us in Kigali for our fourth annual MasterCard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion. I am pleased to share this report with you, looking back at the highlights of the Symposium.

Universal access to finance can be achieved if disadvantaged people have access to safe, affordable and convenient financial products and services. This can occur only if financial service providers truly understand the complex financial lives of poor people and the contexts in which they live.

The 2016 Symposium focused on insights from behavioural economics to help those in the sector better understand the unique needs of disadvantaged clients. It also focused on strengthening financial service institutions’ operations, primarily through partnerships, to deliver better services to their clients.

Together, we can lead change within our sector. As we work towards the 2020 goal of universal financial inclusion, we need to strengthen our efforts to put clients at the centre of everything we do.

We encourage you to read this report, revisit the sessions that resonated with you and share them with colleagues and others within the sector. We look forward to the next Symposium and hope you will continue to share your thoughts on new ways to advance financial inclusion, keeping clients at the centre of our work.

Ann Miles
Financial Inclusion,
The MasterCard Foundation

Key Takeaways

The Symposium on Financial Inclusion (SoFI2016) brought together more than 300 leaders in the financial inclusion sector to discuss successes, challenges and ways to move financial inclusion forward.

This year’s Symposium built on the concept of client centricity by focusing on how disadvantaged clients make decisions and how strategic partnerships can help organizations serve clients better.

SoFI2016 also provided practical examples to the financial services industry on how to drive client centricity and demonstrate that it is beneficial for both client and institution.

In her opening remarks, Ann Miles, Director of Financial Inclusion at the Foundation, reminded the audience that client centricity has been a central theme of the Symposium over the last four years. She asked attendees to think about how people’s needs evolve as their lives change and as the financial ecosystem changes with them. She emphasized that we need to think about financial services not just for today, but for the next generation.

Below are a number of insights from the Symposium.


The Rwanda Experience


Rwangombwa said that through partnerships between the Rwandan government, the National Bank of Rwanda and Access to Finance Rwanda, as well as a commitment to inclusion through national policy and strategy, Rwanda has been able to address low financial literacy levels and low trust in financial institutions.

The Governor also detailed the challenges Rwanda faces in reaching its goal of 100 percent inclusion by 2020. These include the gender gap and levels of poverty, but he said that the government was addressing these challenges through their national financial inclusion strategy.

The following panel, “The Rwanda Experience,” moderated by Olga Morawcynski from The MasterCard Foundation, further showcased Rwanda’s successes in financial inclusion.

The panel consisted of Patrick Buchana of AC Group; Jean Claude Gaga from RSwitch; Eric Rwigamba from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Rwanda; and Bilal Zia from the World Bank. It further emphasized the cooperative nature of the government’s approach as well as the value of digital financial services to reach 100 percent inclusion.

Zia said Rwanda’s success with financial inclusion has been driven by a “reform-oriented” government and financial inclusion sector. “They know what they want,” he said. “They’re committed to creating an innovative financial inclusion sector.”

Ivan Murenzi of Access to Finance Rwanda explained that, since 2012, inclusion in Rwanda has largely been driven by digital finance, with savings groups helping to fill the gaps, particularly in remote areas.

The Symposium Debate

The Symposium debate addressed the motion, “digital finance is the most effective way to build the financial health of low-income clients.”

Moderator Tilman Ehrbeck opened the debate by detailing the two main elements of the motion, effectiveness and financial health. He then polled the audience and found it was evenly divided, with 34.5 percent agreeing with the motion, 34.5 percent disagreeing and 30.9 percent unsure.


Amanda Donahue from Tala and Sabine Mensah of UNCDF MM4P argued that digital finance is the most effective way to build the financial health of low-income clients. Donahue, kicking off the opening remarks, said that the fundamental question in financial inclusion is how to reach the excluded when 85 percent of any given population lives outside rural areas. She said the answer is digitization.

“With digitization, we are able to shape families and communities in ways we haven’t done before – by offering choice, control, security, opportunity and improvement in a person’s daily life,” she said. “With digitization, we are able to provide access to services never before available to those in rural areas due to logistics and cost.”

Mensah asked the audience to picture “the low-income woman. She has a phone and it has changed her life,” Mensah said. “With one click she has access to a loan to invest back into her business and grow her income for her and her family.”


Stephen Mukweli from Postbank Uganda and William Derban from Fidelity Bank Ghana took the against side. Derban argued that many people have digital accounts but only 20 percent use them on a regular basis. He also said that with reliance on digital, many women remain excluded because they often don’t have access to the household phone as it is usually considered the property of the man.

He explained that offering digital services is still inaccessible to smaller organizations due to cost.

Mukweli brought up the issue of connectivity in rural areas. “It is very difficult,” he said. “You are going to need other channels where you can interact with the community, raise their level of understanding and teach them how to select products that work for them.”

“Until the challenges of literacy levels, connectivity and electrification are addressed, digital financial services will not be an effective way to bring low-income people into the financial sector,” Mukweli said.


After compelling arguments from both sides, and questions and comments from the audience, the lively debate came to a close. A new survey of the audience found that 44 percent disagreed with the motion that digital finance is the most effective way to build the financial health of low-income clients. A total of 42 percent agreed with it, and 13 percent were unsure about how they felt.

Clients at the Centre Prize

The MasterCard Foundation 2016 Clients at the Centre Prize winner was decided and announced at the Symposium.

The US$150,000 prize is awarded to an organization working in financial inclusion in developing countries that best ensures that client centricity is central to their business strategy.

More than 75 organizations in 35 countries applied and were judged on the following criteria:

  • A focus on the client
  • Clarity on what success looks like
  • A vision for long-term impact
  • Desire to innovate
  • Contextual awareness

Symposium attendees heard pitches from the finalists: Fourth Generation Capital (Kenya), a loan company focused on micro-entrepreneurs; Artoo IT Solutions (India), a digital lending business; and Hello Paisa (South Africa), a remittance and mobile money transfer company working with migrant populations.

The audience voted on the most client-centric organization based on the finalists’ pitches, awarding the 2016 Clients at the Centre prize to Hello Paisa.

From left to right: Ann Miles, Director, Financial Inclusion at The MasterCard Foundation; Sumaiya Sajjad, Program Manager, Financial Inclusion at The MasterCard Foundation; Wayne Hennessy-Barrett, Fourth Generation Capital; Kavita Nehemiah, Artoo IT Solutions; and Ahmed Cassim, Hello Paisa

Behind every remittance is a family and every remittance can change the lives of that family. We keep that in mind every day. 

- Ahmed Cassim, Hello Paisa

Looking Ahead

We would like to thank all those who participated in the 2016 MasterCard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion. We look forward to the 2017 Symposium where we will deepen the understanding of the client experience and continue to put clients at the centre of our work.

At the Symposium, we asked attendees to complete this sentence: “By 2020, financial inclusion will…”