Emerging Economies and the Promise of Financial Inclusion
Emerging economies and financial inclusion have a very unique and critical relationship. Financial inclusion enables development and provides tremendous opportunities for people around the world. Some special challenges and solutions must be considered for each country to achieve meaningful financial inclusion and health for people around the world.
Financial Inclusion and Development
Financial inclusion is essential for development in many of these emerging markets. With greater access to financial services, people are more likely to escape poverty or invest in education. Additionally, farmers can more easily access credit and insurance, which improves food security in many countries.
Overall economic growth and prosperity are more attainable. More of the population can access reliable financial services. They can easily save money for the future, finance homes or businesses, or invest in other opportunities. Financial inclusion also gives people far more control over their finances when compared to cash-only markets.
In countries worldwide, companies and governments have made tremendous strides to provide more accessible financial services. Hundreds of millions have gained access to financial services, with more bank branches opening every year to provide easier access to services critical to community development.
Fintech and Emerging Economies
Fintech has played an essential role in financial inclusion for many emerging economies. This is due to the accessible nature of fintech-based financial services. Many in these countries cannot afford the cost or time to go through formal banks, and fintech has been able to provide many alternatives. Additionally, the widespread adoption of smartphones globally has made it much easier for fintech services to reach people who cannot access traditional financial services.
According to the World Bank, mobile money apps and payments developed by fintech have also helped drive bank account openings globally. Innovations have made it easier and much more appealing for people to actively seek out opening a bank account in areas where it has historically been difficult for many to have bank accounts.
While incredible strides have been made with financial inclusion in emerging economies, numerous challenges lie ahead.
According to the World Bank, about 70% of adults globally have some sort of bank account. Unfortunately, research also shows that nearly 30% of adults still need access to their own bank accounts. This demonstrates that widespread underbanking still occurs globally, with hundreds of millions still being excluded from financial services.
Financial services available in many emerging economies are forced to work with local currencies that can be unpredictable and drastically change in value quickly. This makes it much more challenging to deliver effective financial services to communities. This situation is even more complicated because many of these economies need more access to more stable foreign currencies, such as the dollar.
Many financial services struggle to make inroads into an emerging market because their developers truly need to grasp the local culture. Locally developed solutions for financial inclusion have been incredibly successful in many emerging economies. But due to their customized nature for local cultural conditions, they are tough to replicate in other countries.
In recent years, companies and governments have rushed to provide easily accessible digital financial services. However, a real risk of fraud and hacking comes with digital financial services. Providers must work to ensure proper security measures to protect the information and finances of users.
Security is critical in emerging economies where many users have few funds to begin with. Any loss due to fraud or security breaches can be devastating to these people. Lack of trust in financial institutions is a significant reason why people around the world are reluctant to use financial services. Data breaches do nothing to resolve this fear and are likely to drive potential users away from digital financial services.
While getting more people access to financial services is essential, it is equally important that those services are effective and allow people to develop good financial health. This means users are able to easily manage their finances in the present and have confidence about their finances looking forward.
An easily accessible digital money app that does not enable users to save for the future is not really serving overall financial help for users in emerging markets. Solutions geared towards driving financial inclusion in emerging economies must be designed to assist users with financial shocks. This can include access to easy lines of credit or enabling their relatives to send remittances from abroad easily.
To provide proper financial health to users, developers of inclusive financial services, whether banks or fintech, must understand the needs of the communities the services are designed to serve. Suppose a service is designed to meet the unique needs of an emerging economy. In that case, it is far more likely to provide users with meaningful financial health, and many will be eager to be included due to its effectiveness.
Much of the financial inclusion improvement in emerging economies has revolved around digital money apps and services. These are incredibly convenient and useful for everyday purchases. Financial institutions and fintech must continue to improve these money apps. Ideally, they would build out additional financial services from these apps. This way, users of money services can easily access services such as loans or insurance.
Solutions for Women
Despite the many successes of financial inclusion in recent years in emerging economies, many women still need to be included. While many more women have gained access to financial services, their access remains substantially lower than men. Women must have access to financial services to control their finances and their future. This is also critical for the development of economies to have their whole populations have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential financially.
Investing in financial education is another significant step toward improving financial inclusion in emerging economies. With financial literacy, people can better understand the options available to them and can craft their own financial futures more effectively. This is also an excellent opportunity to build trust in communities that are still suspicious of financial services. With more excellent education, people can understand and attain the financial services they need.