Browse by Theme: Financial Inclusion

Village savings and loan associations (VSLAs) have been a powerful tool for enabling millions of women to access loans, set up small businesses and improve their quality of life. But as an evaluation of a CARE VSLA programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has shown, VSLAs can also be a platform for addressing the social norms that sustain gender inequality, and can therefore also contribute to the wider and more complex processes of women’s empowerment.

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We at CARE International are excited by some recent research by McKinsey, the leading global strategy consultancy, which highlights that “a bigger deposit base routinely results in a higher valuation [of a bank]. The data show that this is a very reliable driver of an improved market-to-book ratio.” We think that the research adds considerable weight to the business case for banks in developing countries to add large amounts of new savers who are currently in informal savings and loan groups.

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The World Bank Group has been consulting on its plan to update its Gender Strategy. We decided to focus our response to the consultation largely on women’s economic empowerment as a critical component of women’s empowerment and gender equality, and within women’s economic empowerment, at financial inclusion.

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In recent years there’s been a steady stream of media articles questioning the benefits of microfinance, with some critics even arguing that not only does microfinance not benefit the poor, it actually makes them poorer. How should those of us involved in supporting the access of poor people to financial services respond? Is what we are doing actually helping the poor? Is the criticism of microfinance justified? Here are some personal thoughts.

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The Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa last week (13-16 July) got rather tepid and mixed reviews. Surprisingly, for a conference on financing, the outcome document contains very few numbers, and many NGOs are unhappy about the lack of funding commitments (including CARE), lack of a commitment to a new intergovernmental tax body, and a concern about the prominence of private financing (Oxfam, CAFOD, Christian Aid).

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The Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa from 13 to 16 July could be a key moment to build a framework for financing the work needed to eradicate poverty by 2030, and so build confidence for the effective pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals and for a fair and ambitious climate agreement.

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At a session on financial inclusion at the European Development Days event last month, I gave a brief talk about research that CARE and Accenture are jointly conducting on the capabilities for financial inclusion of banks in developing countries. We have now looked in some detail at 30 banks in 12 countries, and compared them to a Financial Inclusion Maturity Model which we have developed. We will be publishing a summary of our research later this summer – but our first high level findings should be ringing alarm bells for banks in developing countries.

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