financial inclusion

Stakeholders in the financial sector have at a summit in Accra agreed on the urgent need to ensure increased access to financial services by the people and businesses.

They said financial inclusion should be seen as vital part of the overall development strategy to enhance social protection.

It was the way to help the people to improve their lives – employment, housing, health and fight poverty.

The meeting had been dubbed “Financial inclusion summit 2018” and was jointly organized by the Microfinance Association, and the Financial Inclusion Advocacy Centre, both in UK, with support from Access Bank (Ghana) PLC, the Business and Financial Times Newspaper, Amenfiman Rural Bank and banking software designer Musoni.

Banking, financial and investment actors, from across Africa attended, and the aim was to discuss opportunities and challenges of the financial sector in the continent.

Financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.

The World Bank Group says “it considers financial inclusion a key enabler to reduce extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity, and has put forward an ambitious global goal to reach universal financial access by 2020.”

According to a report by the Bank, “since 2010, more than 55 countries have made commitments to financial inclusion, and more than 30 have either launched or are developing a national strategy.

It added that “our research indicates that when countries institute a national financial inclusion strategy, they increase the pace and impact of reforms”.

Countries that had achieved the most progress towards financial inclusion had put in place an enabling regulatory and policy environment, and encouraged competition – allowing banks and non-banks to innovate and expand access to financial services.

The Bank, however, noted that “creating this innovative and competitive space has to be accompanied by appropriate consumer protection measures and regulations to ensure responsible provision of financial services”.

Digital financial technology, or “fintech,” and particularly, the global spread of mobile phones, had facilitated expanding access to financial services to hard-to-reach populations and small businesses at low cost.

The high rate of mobile phone ownership, even among low income earners “creates a possibility to reach both individuals and agents who can serve entire neighbourhoods with a single device”.

Mr Godwin Anku, an official from the Finance and Economic Planning Ministry, said about 50 per of the Ghanaian adult population had mobile money account.

The Bank of Ghana (BOG) report showed that as of September 2017, mobile money accounts had reached about 11.2 million.

Mr Anku compared the charges on mobile money transfers with that of traditional banking services and said the former was on a higher side.

He therefore called for a reduction in the rates for more patronage.

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