Opportunities for Africa to Deepen Financial Inclusion and Development

When people can participate in the financial systems, they are better able to start and expand businesses, invest in their children’s education, and absorb financial shocks. Kuran Malhotra

Sub-Saharan Africa has a population with most lives being at the economic downstream, and most likely underdeveloped. The financial inclusion gender gap and income gap persisting just like in other continents, though higher in Sub-Saharan Africa. World Population estimates based on the latest estimates released on June 21, 2017, by the United Nations, shows Africa continues as the second largest continent with a population of 1,256,268,025 (16% of the population of the world) and by the end of January 2018, 40.2% living in urban areas.

The continent has the highest fertility rate of 4.7% (Oceania 2.4%, Asia 2.2%, Latin American and Caribbean 2.1%, Northern America 1.9% and Europe 1.6%) compared to the other continents with a yearly population rate change (increase) of 2.55% – the highest among all continents. Most of its people (59.8%) have lived downstream (rural areas and villages) sometimes out of the mainstream economy. Policy targeting could be difficult in such scenarios, and identifying people who lack access to financial and economic inclusion comes with a huge financial cost in itself, though the benefit in doing so outweighs the cost in mere numbers and requires commitment from leaders and managers of the respective economies. Coupled with a universal phenomenon of non-perfect, untrusted, and in some cases non-existing data on the continent, that could make decision making imperfect and data unreliable, affecting plans, policies and the potencies to resolve stated challenges or improving the economic and social fibre of countries.

The struggles of the financially excluded come from barriers and reasons as access, social and cultural factors, income, education and many possible lists of others. Financial exclusion arguably is one of the reasons some economic policies lack potency to effectively target well on the citizenry with its results in persistent poverty and inequality. Lack of access to basic needs like an account either at the bank or mobile money could mean significant possibilities of opportunities untapped. Globally countries have realized the importance of achieving inclusive societies and supports efforts at maximizing financial inclusion. Sub- Saharan Africa has made some strides over the years in financial and economic inclusion in this regard at individual country levels.

Efforts ongoing in Ghana include a commitment to promoting and prioritizing financial inclusion. The country made specific and concrete commitments to further advance financial inclusion under the “Maya Declaration“ since 2012 and has an ambitious target of achieving 75% Universal financial inclusiveness of its adult population by 2020. Ghana currently has 58% of its adult population having access to financial services and is also finalizing its National Financial Inclusion Strategy which will become the guiding document and reference for inclusive actions, stakeholder roles and responsibilities spelt out for all.

Kenya, however, has earned global recognition in leading the all others in the world in mobile money account penetration, and with twelve other sub-Saharan African Countries following, researchers show. The rate at which African countries are projecting innovation technology for digital financial inclusion is impressive. The country has made giant strides in its financial inclusion commitments, especially under the Maya Declaration.

There has been some paradigm shift in Information and Communication Technology and its importance which is being considered as a factor of economic growth. ICT has the ability to provide services with minimal cost, improve innovation, and provide infrastructure for convenient and easy to use services, it can also provide a route to access many auxiliary financial services.