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New Study Shows How Innovations in Digital Financial Services are Driving Financial Inclusion in Africa

Johannesburg, South Africa, May 22, 2014 — Major new trends and innovations in digital financial services are opening up the possibility of significantly expanding financial inclusion in Africa, according to a new study released today by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and The MasterCard Foundation. The study, In The Fast Lane: Innovations in Digital Financial Services , highlights advances in distribution infrastructure, back-office processes, and product development.
Financial inclusion has made remarkable strides in several African countries in the last few years on the back of mobile technology and new business models for the distribution of financial services. In Tanzania, for example, the rate of access to formal financial services has increased from 16.4 percent to 57.8 percent in just four years, demonstrating the dramatic impact of recent innovations.
Many of the new innovations surveyed in the study further enhance and improve existing mobile money infrastructure. The study also points, however, to innovations that build on the existing system to supply services such as microinsurance, pay-as-you-go solar power or drinking water, and text books on demand.
Greta Bull, head of IFC’s micro-retail advisory services in Sub-Saharan Africa and one of the co-authors of the study, said, “Digital financial services infrastructure not only enables the participation of low-income people in the formal financial sector for the first time, but also provides ample business opportunities for African and international companies to supply services that can improve peoples’ lives.”
New innovations also have direct applicability to business activities on the continent. Mobile applications, “apps”, make it possible, for example, for small-scale farmers to easily group together to collectively bargain for lower prices of inputs.
Ann Miles, Director of Financial Inclusion at The MasterCard Foundation, said, “New innovations play an important role in promoting financial inclusion for all, and ultimately for economic growth, shared prosperity, and poverty reduction. With this study, we aim to make the industry and the public aware of the possibilities and opportunities that are out there.”
IFC and The MasterCard Foundation are hosting an event on financial inclusion in Johannesburg on May 22-23, gathering a large number of prominent practitioners and thinkers in the industry. Media are welcome to request interviews with speakers , many of whom represent some of the most innovative businesses in the field. Please contact Anna Koblanck, , 083-291 2328 for assistance.
About the Partnership for Financial Inclusion
The Partnership for Financial Inclusion is a joint initiative of IFC and The MasterCard Foundation to expand microfinance and advance mobile financial services in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Partnership is also supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Development Bank of Austria (OeEB, Oesterreichische Entwicklungsbank AG),and collaborates with knowledge partners such as the World Bank and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, CGAP. For more information:
About IFC
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector. Working with private enterprises in more than 100 countries, we use our capital, expertise, and influence to help eliminate extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity. In FY13, our investments climbed to an all-time high of nearly $25 billion, leveraging the power of the private sector to create jobs and tackle the world’s most pressing development challenges. For more information, visit
About The MasterCard Foundation
The MasterCard Foundation is an independent, global organization based in Toronto, Canada, with more than $9 billion in assets.  Through collaboration with partner organizations in 46 countries, it is creating opportunities for all people to learn and prosper. The Foundation's programs promote financial inclusion and advance youth learning, mostly in Africa. Established in 2006 through the generosity of MasterCard Worldwide when it became a public company, the Foundation is a separate and independent entity. The policies, operations and funding decisions of the Foundation are determined by its own Board of Directors and President and CEO.  For more information on the Foundation, please visit
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