Browse by Theme: Financial Inclusion

After the historic milestone that was the adoption of the goals on Day 1, Saturday was very much a day of celebration but there was also important work being done.

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So we did it. On Friday the world gathered in New York, flags were raised for 193 countries including Palestine and the Vatican for the first time, and to universal acclamation the new Sustainable Development Goals were gavelled into existence. What had taken three years of hard negotiation, impassioned argument and long technical nit-picking were suddenly a reality.

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Financial inclusion is a key enabler for the Sustainable Development Goals – but its key role will only be fulfilled if civil society, government and the private sector can work together really effectively.

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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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