The Indian microfinance sector has long been criticized for following a one-size-fits-all approach to products and significantly under-investing in innovation. The primary reason for this is a perception that product customization for the poor is a cost, rather than a strategic investment. Similar concerns have been raised about commercial banks’ efforts to further financial inclusion. Approximately 90% of India’s 100 million no-frills accounts —basic bank accounts offered by formal financial institutions lie dormant. This indicates that government and industry initiatives to enhance financial inclusion are unlikely to meet intended results if the focus remains on simply pushing products which are not customized to what the poor need and desire.
Grameen Foundation Insights
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At Grameen Foundation, our goal is to spur innovation in the global movement to eliminate extreme poverty. Part of that work is to develop better solutions and share them with people like you.
On GF Insights, we share lessons learned from our leaders in the field, news about efforts to expand access to financial and information services for the poor, and how poverty-focused organizations are using data to improve the way they work.
If knowledge is power, then learning how to avoid infection by one of the most deadly viruses of modern times surely ranks among the most precious of educations. The announcement on January 16 of an ambitious European drive to test and deploy a vaccine against the scourge of Ebola places Grameen Foundation mobile health programs at the center of delivering that life-saving education to the most vulnerable people on earth. It is a challenge we are honored to accept.
Alex Counts meets with a microfinance client in Banda Aceh in May 2007 to learn how she is recovering from the tsunami
Ten years ago this month, I was smarting from the death of my father while basking in the glow of some significant professional triumphs. Grameen Foundation, the global humanitarian organization I had founded in 1997 with the support of Muhammad Yunus, had just secured $10 million in new financing including the two largest private donations to support microfinance up to that point. We had recently completed a merger with Digital Partners, a technology savvy NGO, and were well positioned to provide leadership in harnessing the information revolution to benefit the world’s poor. We were also gearing up to accelerate the growth and development of micro-financial services as a force for reducing poverty on a global level, and would benefit greatly when Yunus and the Grameen Bank that he founded would receive the Nobel Peace Prize in a surprise announcement months later.
As the largest among the fast-growing economies of Africa, Nigeria is a promising market for mobile financial services. More than 80 percent of adults have access to a mobile phone and a sizeable number (64 percent) own their phones. In addition, there are now more than 20 licensed operators providing services across the country. Yet, mobile money has not taken off as expected, though almost 57 percent of Nigerian adults (50 million people) have no access to formal financial services. According to a Financial Inclusion Insights study conducted in July 2014, only 0.1 percent of Nigerian adults actively use mobile money.
The term “digital financial services” automatically implies high levels of automation and limited human interaction and physical cash handling. This is how most of us expect it to be. We would much rather walk up to an ATM machine and withdraw cash, than queue up to see a teller. We would much rather use our credit card to make a purchase, than carry cash around.