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On Financial Inclusion Week 2019, we took a step back as a community to revisit the fundamental purpose of why we need financial inclusion.
1.7 billion adults worldwide still have no access to formal financial services – at a financial institution or through a mobile money provider. Among them, more than half are women.
Why must we sit up and take note of this?
Financial services are foundational to achieving some of the most significant development goals. Access to bank accounts and payment services have a measurable impact on poverty. In fact, financial inclusion is featured as a target in seven of the 17 SDGs, and there are four financial inclusion indicators to track progress.
We have made sure progress. The 2017 Global Findex (World Bank report on Financial Inclusion) data shows that 515 million adults worldwide opened an account at a financial institution or through a mobile money provider between 2014 and 2017. With the existence of various institutions such as banks, fintechs, microfinance institutions actively trying to cater to people’s financial needs, we cannot be anything but optimistic about reaching the target by 2030.
This Financial Inclusion Week, led by the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion, organisations around the world working on advancing financial inclusion, joined together to revisit the fundamental purpose of our work.
To commemorate the week, BRAC’s microfinance programme organised an exhibition at BRAC’s head office in Dhaka, Bangladesh. A replica of a typical microfinance branch office was set up showing the tailored products and services that every client has access, and also presenting our work in client protection as well as digital technology in field operations and digital financial services.
A timeline displayed key milestones during the 45-year journey of BRAC’s microfinance programme and its global footprint. Guests also had an opportunity to participate in our financial inclusion quiz and win prizes. Throughout the week, we shared insights and lessons learned on social media and engaged with the global financial inclusion community.
A ‘virtual reality’ video took audiences on a journey to the riverine island of Itna in northern Bangladesh for an immersive experience of how we deliver financial services in the last mile in Bangladesh. Visitors also learned about what financial inclusion is in a nutshell.
The event ended with an engaging panel discussion with Shameran Abed, senior director, microfinance and ultra-poor graduation programmes, BRAC and BRAC International; Wendy Werner country manager – Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, IFC; Afsana Islam, private sector development adviser and deputy team leader, DFID; and Siffat Sarwar, co-founder and COO, ShopUp.
Kamran Ibne Abdul Qader is a senior communications officer and Tahjib Shamsuddin is a communications specialist for BRAC’s microfinance programme.