Earlier this year, I reported on CARE International’s planned participation at Davos. We co-hosted a discussion event with Accenture Development Partners on the role of banks within financial inclusion, pointing to our Within Reach report which demonstrates the strength of the business case for banks to engage in financial inclusion, but also highlighting from CARE’s perspective the key role that financial inclusion plays in the empowerment of women, and the imperative for banks to step up to the challenge.
As now documented on Accenture’s website, there was a lively discussion between Dr Wolfgang Jamann, Secretary General and CEO of CARE International; Stephen van Coller, CEO Corporate and Investment Banking, Barclays Africa; and Louise James, Managing Director, Accenture Development Partnerships. The discussion covered the opportunities in emerging economies to grow profitable and inclusive financial services, but also highlighted that financial institutions are not adapting their business models fast enough to tap into the market of the currently unbanked, despite the existence of digital technologies, which eliminate cost and access barriers.
The wider discussion among the participants overwhelmingly agreed that financial inclusion does not have one sector solution, and for the necessary cross-sector partnerships to succeed, all players must work differently. Banks must connect financial inclusion to the long-term business strategy. Governments must rethink regulation that makes it hard and costly for banks to reach out. And NGOs must act more like business partners, co-creating solutions. Such changes are essential because financial inclusion is the starting point to address all developing world challenges — from gender inequality to healthcare.