Financial inclusion on rise, uneven across countries

WASHINGTON, Financial inclusion is on the rise globally thanks to mobile phones and the internet but the increase has not been even across countries, the World Bank said in a report on Thursday.

Globally, 69 percent of adults have a bank account or money provider, “a crucial step in escaping poverty.” This is up 62 percent in 2014 and 51 percent in 2011, the report said.

From 2014 to 2017, 515 million adults obtained an account, and 1.2 billion have done so since 2011, according to the Global Findex database.

“While in some economies account ownership has surged, progress has been slower elsewhere, often held back by large disparities between men and women and between the rich and poor,” it said.

However, the gap between men and women in developing countries has remained unchanged since 2011 at 9 percentage points.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said: “Financial inclusion allows people to save for family needs, borrow to support a business, or build a cushion against an emergency. Having access to financial services is a critical step towards reducing both poverty and inequality.” In the Middle East and North Africa, the report found opportunities to increase financial inclusion are strong among women.

“Today 52 percent of men but only 35 percent of women have an account, the largest gender gap of any region,” it said.

Since there is high mobile phone ownership it offers a chance to expand financial inclusion. Among those without bank accounts, 86 percent of men and 75 percent of women have a mobile phone.

Up to 20 million unbanked adults in the region send or receive domestic remittances using cash or an over-the-counter service, including 7 million in Egypt, it said.

Source: Kuwait News Agency