People living in Africa have some of the lowest levels of access to formal financial services in the world. Even when they are able to open accounts, usage rates often remain low because transactions are too costly, insecure, or inconvenient. The most underserved are women, youth, and those living in remote areas.
Through the Expanding Access to Financial Services initiative, Mastercard Foundation is fostering effective and inclusive financial markets that will not only enable more poor people to access financial services and improve their lives — it will also help to drive business expansion and increase youth employment, the overarching focus of the Foundation’s work in the years ahead.
These programs aim to increase access to financial services by:
The Foundation has engaged ITAD as Learning Partner for its projects related to scaling access to financial services. ITAD, in partnership with the SEEP Network, synthesizes and aggregates what is being learned across the Foundation’s portfolio and within the sector. It then engages with a variety of key audiences to disseminate the learning and facilitate knowledge sharing. Among the projects being monitored, work is concentrated in several areas:
With WSBI (World Savings and Retail Banking Institute), the Foundation is implementing the Making Small Scale Savings Work project. It aims to establish the viability of low-balance savings accounts for financial institutions in seven countries in Africa. The focus is on introducing and/or reinforcing client-centric practices at those institutions and removing barriers that prevent poor people from opening and using savings accounts.
The Savings at the Frontier project aims to expand the range of savings products and services available to poor people in Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia with the goal of improving access to 250,000 rural and semi-urban households. It tests and implements business models that are sustainable for financial institutions and that deliver financial products and services to savings groups, as well as to users of other informal savings mechanisms.
The Foundation’s work with UNCDF’s MicroLead and the Partnership for Financial Inclusion with IFC aims to increase economic growth by providing millions of low-income rural people with access to financial services through alternative delivery channels (ADCs) at affordable prices. The two most common ADCs today are digital financial services, such as mobile banking, and agency banking. The Partnership for Financial Inclusion has worked with 14 microfinance institutions, banks, mobile network operators, and payment service providers across Africa. This has resulted in 7.2 million new users of digital financial services (a 250 percent increase from the baseline), 45,000 new banking agents, and $300 million in monthly transactions.