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The launch and growth of digital financial services has led to an unprecedented increase in the number of people enjoying access to formal financial services.
Today, Africa is home to more digital financial services deployments than any other region in the world, with almost half of the nearly 700 million individual users worldwide.
Mobile money solutions and agent banking now offer affordable, instant, and reliable transactions, savings, credit, and even insurance opportunities in rural villages and urban neighborhoods where no bank had ever established a branch.
This is, quite literally, banking at your fingertips – for everyone. It is revolutionary. The impact, however, extends beyond the individual.
What makes a difference for a small-scale entrepreneur or a smallholder farmer translates into broader gains for society.
Ten years after the breakthrough of digital financial services in Sub-Saharan Africa, we are seeing evidence of this. Field studies show that access to mobile money services has increased daily per capita consumption levels of households, lifting them out of extreme poverty.
Mobile money services have changed lives – for example, helping women to move from subsistence farming to business occupations and sustainable livelihoods.
In total, our partnership with 14 African financial services providers from 2012 to 2016 have resulted in 7.2 million new digital financial services users on the continent (a 250 percent increase from the baseline), 45,000 new banking agents, and $300 million in monthly transactions.
More than ever, we know that financial inclusion is a means to an end. It is a catalyst for equitable development and inclusive economic growth.
Our ambition with the Partnership for Financial Inclusion has always been to improve the capacity of the financial sector to better serve all people in Africa, and to share the lessons learned from those efforts with the global development community.
By working with pioneers of low-cost financial services across the continent to design, develop, and test new technological approaches and innovative business models, we have highlighted both the opportunities and the challenges in furthering financial inclusion.
This publication brings to the fore the voices of Africa’s consumers, as well as those of financial services industry leaders. We believe that they offer deep and thoughtful analysis for everyone working in this area of international development. We trust that you will find this a valuable read.
By Reeta Roy President and CEO Mastercard Foundation, and Philippe Le Houérou CEO International Finance Corporation (IFC)
This is the forward of a newly launched report-Digital Access: The Future of Financial Inclusion in Africa.