Financial Inclusion 2020: Are we out of our minds?!

> Posted by Susy Cheston
This post is part of the Center for Financial Inclusion’s Expert Exchange: Building A Movement Toward Financial Inclusion by 2020, cultivating conversation around the goal of reaching full financial inclusion by 2020. For further questions about this series, write to Sonja E. Kelly, Fellow, Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion.
Are we “rushing inclusion perhaps to its early death,” as a recent post from the Kenya Financial Education Centre asks?  In the post, John Gitau’s concern is that in our rush to access, we are getting ahead of clients’ capacity to use services wisely and well.  It’s a good concern to raise, and it is especially legitimate when posed by someone who sees the fall-out up close and personal.
And yet the Center for Financial Inclusion is spearheading a Financial Inclusion 2020 project that is breathtaking in its audacity:  building a movement to full financial inclusion for all, using the year 2020 as a focal point to clarify thinking and galvanize action.  The argument of the Center is that working backwards from 2020—near enough that we can track our progress, far enough away that change is possible—results in a different kind of thinking than incremental strategies to add a few million clients here and there.  To this end we are working with a wide range of partners to build a road map to full inclusion, pushing to accelerate what we believe to be critical access to financial services for those who are excluded.  We are casting our net wide—engaging any and all who want to be involved in this effort.*
So, we are building a road map to inclusion–or, as our friend from Kenya might ask, are we building a road to ruin?
For me, the answer is found in the Center’s vision of full financial inclusion:

We envision a financially inclusive world in which all people who can use them have access to a full suite of quality financial services, provided at affordable prices, in a convenient manner, and with dignity for the clients. Services are delivered to financially capable clients by a range of providers, most of them private, and reach everyone who can use them, including disabled, poor, and rural populations.

The five dimensions at the beginning of the vision balance issues of access with an emphasis on the quality of services.  Of course, “quality” is a loaded term. It includes affordability, convenience, and a high value on customer care. The definition also makes clear that a network of players are needed to bring about full inclusion in this manner, reducing risk to any one player, and increasing the overall standards of financial products on the market.
Furthermore, it is not a coincidence that the Financial Inclusion 2020 staff share an office with the Smart Campaign staff, which focuses entirely on client protection. Our “Road Map” will address expansion of access and use, through technology and product range, but these topics are balanced by client-focused topics such as financial capability, client protection, and ensuring that products are informed by an understanding of client needs.  As our report,  “Opportunities and Obstacles to Financial Inclusion,” put it:

“It’s the clients, stupid!”

With this mantra as the “true north” on our compass, we hope our work to advance financial inclusion will result in services that, as our friend in Kenya concludes, “are easy to understand. Before long, many products can be introduced, and inclusion will then become a daily affair as opposed to a destination goal post.”
Well said, friend.
* Note: The Center welcomes engagement from all stakeholders involved in financial inclusion. If you would like to review written products of the various Consultative Process working groups, and provide written feedback to help refine the road map to full financial inclusion, please email Anita Gardeva, of the Center for Financial Inclusion.
For more information, sign up for updates from the Financial Inclusion 2020 campaign. 
Image credit: Sebastian Niedlich
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