The World Cup of Financial Exclusion

> Posted by Sonja E. Kelly, Fellow, CFI

We are in full World Cup fervor in the Accion offices around the world, with jerseys making appearances at global staff meetings, water cooler conversations centering on surprise advancements (and eliminations), and a high incidence of lingering trips to the conference room screen to check scores in between meetings and deadlines. You could say things are getting a little heated as the group of teams still in the running gets smaller.

There have been a few attempts to use this global competition as an opportunity to better understand our world. The Wall Street Journal published a “World Cup of Everything Else,” where countries can be matched up on categories from the hottest weather to the biggest eaters of seafood, and Dean Karlan produced a set of predictions based on population, poverty level, and interest in soccer to assess which country would experience the greatest increase in happiness with a World Cup victory (spoiler: Nigeria would have had the most aggregate happiness if it had won the tournament).

But what if the World Cup were a competition based on financial inclusion indicators? If we were to create a bracket where the country with the highest level of financial inclusion advanced, the European countries would all advance, which in my opinion wouldn’t be very interesting.

What if, however, we use the World Cup system to see where the highest number of financially excluded people are? We crunched the numbers to show you, of the countries that made it to Brazil for the competition, who would “win” the title of “highest number of financially excluded people.” Basing winners on the countries with the largest number of people without a formal bank account, we noticed a few surprises.

Click on the bracket to enlarge it.

Using the Global Findex data on exclusion rates (measured by the percent of the population that reports not having an account) and UN population data, we calculated the size, in number of people, of the excluded population within World Cup contender countries, beginning with the original FIFA groups. Not surprisingly, countries with large populations tend to be the “winners” in their groups.

Nigeria emerges as the final winner, with Brazil, Mexico, and the U.S. following closely behind. We often think of exclusion as being a low and middle income country problem, but as the advancement of high income countries in the brackets show us, exclusion is everyone’s problem—countries like the United States are no exception.

The bracket system doesn’t return the “top four” countries to the final (Russia, for example, would have made it farther) – after all advancing in a tournament depends on who you play. This exercise does, however, cause us to think about impact and global focus. Where are the highest numbers of excluded people, and how can financial inclusion efforts have the highest impact on access? Conversely, where are the countries where financial inclusion issues are not necessarily focused on access but rather on quality of engagement and quality of services? Which of these countries are the most active in conversations on financial inclusion, and will such conversations translate into a significant decrease in exclusion over time?

Part of what makes the World Cup so much fun is that it’s one of the few times when most of the world comes together, participating in and focusing on one thing. For me, it’s also one of the few times when I focus my attention on particular countries – ones that for whatever reason have stayed off my radar. Has it gotten you to think differently about the world, and about financial inclusion more specifically?

Image credit: Alobos Life

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