Expanding Access to Financial Services in Africa

Expanding Access to Financial Services in Africa

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.

By the Numbers*

Active projects


Active commitments

US $181M

Clients reached


These programs aim to increase access to financial services by:

  • Linking informal savings groups to formal financial services;
  • Helping microfinance institutions increase access by exploring alternative channels to deliver services;
  • Demonstrating to financial service providers new ways to meet the needs of specific clients, such as youth;
  • Innovating on client-specific products, such as housing microfinance or water finance; and
  • Seeking to embed the principles of responsible finance and client-centricity in all the work that the Foundation does with its partners.

Learning From the Mastercard Foundation’s Projects

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:

Enabling Smaller Financial Institutions to Offer Services to Poor People

With WSBI (World Savings and Retail Banking Institute), the Foundation is implementing the Scale2Save project. It aims to establish the viability of low-balance savings accounts for financial institutions in six 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.

Linking Informal Savings Groups to Formal Financial Services

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.

Helping Microfinance Institutions Scale Access through Alternative Delivery Channels

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.

Partners >

View partners in Expanding Access to Financial Services

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