This past fall at the United Nations, world leaders gathered together and pledged to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide by 2030. Shortly thereafter, the World Bank raised the definition of “extreme poverty” from those living on less than $1.25 per day to those living on $1.90 – which means that we’re making progress, and enough of it to raise our ambitions even further. The total number of financially excluded people has dropped from 2.5 billion to 2 billion in the past three years — but we’re not there yet.
That progress represents an important first step for all of us in the financial inclusion movement who are committed to the belief that everyone should have access to the financial services they need to protect their families, send their children to school, and improve their lives. Here are three major ways we can work towards the UN’s 2030 through expanding financial inclusion.
- Look beyond bank accounts
Though more people around the world have access to an account, access alone is not the same thing as creating global financial inclusion — having only a savings account wouldn’t protect us if we became sick or injured, or help us build the credit we needed to buy a home. Having a bank account is just one step in the process needed to become fully financially included.
- Invest in financial education
Likewise, although access is up, actual usage is stagnant. In too many instances, adults open a bank account and only use it to receive and withdraw payments, or in some cases, not at all. That’s not the relationship we think we should be creating with financial services — we need to affect cultural change through financial education, so those 2 billion people can not only open bank accounts but use them and other services to improve their own lives.
- Learn to reach out to the most excluded
Finally, the remaining financially excluded people represent some of the most overlooked and underserved communities on earth: women, the elderly, people with disabilities, young people, and those in rural areas. We have to do more to ensure that they, too, have the same degree of access to quality financial services that they need and deserve.
Still, this progress should help inspire even greater action, commitment, and creativity in promoting financial inclusion and working to end a problem that we can actually solve.
We’ll also keep working with microfinance institutions, financial technology startups, and industry partners to keep expanding access to financial services and promoting usage. We’ve made so much progress, and we know that if we keep working together then we’ll achieve even more.