Algbra is Bridging the Gap Algbra is a “global digital program” for the “unbanked and underserved.” Algbra is bridging the gap in financial inclusion by bringing financial security to developing countries. The emergence of cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology has spawned endless opportunities within the financial industry. Although these accomplishments are impressive, a shocking 1.7 billion people worldwide are still without access to bank accounts. Banking services offer a convenient and secure money management method, a luxury unattainable for many of the world’s impoverished. Millions of people in developing markets are excluded from the financial system due to “insufficient income levels and market discrimination.” Exclusion from financial services prevents an accumulation of savings, investable funds and asset growth. New World Group vows to bridge the financial inclusion gap in developing countries with the innovative global digital platform, Algbra.

The Algbra Fintech Platform

Algbra is the new London-based fintech platform designed to create a multi-faceted, fair and viable banking experience that fulfills the needs of low-income consumers. The company raised £3.75 million in funds for the Algbra platform, with the aim of educating and uplifting underserved and minority populations so that people can move toward financial freedom.

Algbra is also the first platform of its kind to offer services in consideration of faith-based values. This is a more appealing option for those following the Islamic faith, an unbanked demographic of nearly 800 million people. Some of the products offered by Algbra include “current accounts, foreign exchange, remittances and rewards, with lending products to follow shortly thereafter.”

Algbra’s Impact on Global Poverty

In a study involving 35 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, researchers looked at the impact of financial inclusion on poverty levels among low-income households. Using data from 2011, it was concluded that financial inclusion significantly decreased poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by “providing net wealth and larger welfare benefits” for impoverished people.

On May 19, 2021, Algbra announced its partnership with the Patchwork Foundation, a British organization dedicated to advocating for underprivileged and minority communities to partake in issues of democracy and civil society. Through this partnership, Algbra and the Patchwork Foundation will empower promising young leaders with financial literacy skills and other essential skills. These skills will help the youth become informed policymakers capable of establishing practices that promote social and economic inclusion.

It is important for Muslim women to have a share in financial resources and the opportunity to participate in society’s advancement, all while adhering to Islamic teachings. This is instrumental to economic prosperity for developing countries with large Muslim populations.

However, the World Bank found that the Middle East and North Africa, which are predominantly Muslim regions, have the most significant gender gap in bank account ownership. In these regions, a whole 65% of women are without a bank account compared to 48% of men. Zeiad Idris, CEO of Algbra, believes empowering women by facilitating access to financial services is instrumental to increased economic growth.

How Algbra is Bridging the Gap

The financial industry lacks services that meet the faith-based needs of consumers. As a result, many Muslims limit their usage of financial services. A 2018 Thomson Reuters report indicates that religious considerations prohibited 34% of Afghan individuals and 27% of people in Iraq and Tunisia from utilizing financial services. However in Muslim-majority nations like Jordan, providing Shariah-compliant lending products (loans aligned with religious principles) raised application rates from 18% to 22%, according to a study by Professor Dean Karlan of Yale University.

Shariah compliance prohibits profiting from items or services with the potential to cause harm to people or the environment. Additionally, investors must avoid enterprises that deal with “weapons, alcohol and gambling.” Algbra provides solutions for Muslim consumers who seek Shariah-compliant banking services and solutions. The solutions are also beneficial for environmentally conscientious consumers who are mindful of financial imprints.

The Future of the Financial Industry

Adam Sadiq, CEO of New World Group, explains that a significant amount of people in impoverished nations “face financial exclusion because they cannot open an account at a traditional brick and mortar bank. As a result, they are unable to enjoy the opportunities made possible by economic growth, and in many cases, remain stuck in the poverty trap.” Algbra is bridging the gap in financial inclusion as the latest financial technology innovation aimed at resolving these difficulties through faith-based and inclusive banking services.

Tiara Tyson
Photo: Flickr

Bank Access in Afghanistan
Bank access in Afghanistan is a step toward financial inclusion for the rural poor. According to Jan Chipchase and Panthea Lee’s research on the nascent mobile-phone-based financial services that were available in Afghanistan in 2010, theft and bribery plagued the banking system. Person-to-person transfers were not widely available until the creation of the M-Paisa mobile money transfer service. Roshan launched the M-Paisa mobile money transfer banking in Kabul in 2010 when 83 bank accounts existed per 1,000. Through this service and other programs, improvements in the availability and quality of bank access in Afghanistan have been a major contributor towards reducing income inequality and poverty.

Gradually Improving Access

With limited credit available, Afghans were hiding money at home under the mattress, and forms of money ranged anywhere from banknotes to gold jewelry to livestock. The rural poor did not trust the banking system, and the use of the word “Paisa” helped to make the service seem more trustworthy, although it posed access challenges for the rural poor. By 2014, banking access improved for 40% of Afghanistan’s population, with a 7% increase in the availability of financial services. However, access to credit was still out of reach to the rural poor as most of the banks were located in Kabul province, an urban area. This made it more difficult for rural people to get loans to start businesses.

In 2015, a project to bolster bank access in Afghanistan made a step toward financial inclusion for the rural poor with the start of the Afghan Rural Enterprise Development. The project sought to integrate rural agricultural communities into the economy. Employment opportunities emerged in poor rural villages by the creation of savings and enterprise groups along with loan associations. According to The World Bank, the rural poor received assistance in building their own businesses, which increased the value of trade, ensuring new opportunities. This created access to credit through internal lending, which focused on small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs. This program was so important because it targeted people who traditionally could not access the banking system.

The Reason it Matter

As of November 2019, more data exists to support the successes of bank access in Afghanistan that The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific published. The goal of the report was to assess the status of financial inclusion for all adults in Afghanistan age 15 to 64 including women. Financial inclusion in a “broad range of quality and affordable financial services including but not limited to account, payment, saving, and credit provided by formal financial institutions in a fair, transparent, and sustainable manner.” According to this presentation, 15,000 bank accounts exist per 100,000 adults, and in 2021, projections determined them to be 20,000. Expectations have determined that mobile money accounts and accounts that women hold will also grow during the same period. Although the success of banking the unbanked in Afghanistan has been slow, steady progress has occurred toward financial inclusion of the rural poor and women.

It is clear that bank access in Afghanistan and credit is allowing the rural poor in Afghanistan to do better financially. However, according to the World Bank Afghanistan, “the COVID-19 crisis will have a serious and sustained impact on Afghanistan’s economy. Recovery is expected to take several years, with new investment constrained by political uncertainties, continued insecurity, and questions around ongoing international support.” It is important to maintain international support for improving banking access to preserve opportunities for Afghanistan’s rural population.

Kathleen Shepherd-Segura
Photo: Flickr

Financial inclusion can fight povertyRoughly 1.7 billion adults around the world are unbanked and most unbanked adults live in developing countries. Unbanked people have limited political, economic and social power and influence. For roughly half of the world’s unbanked who come from the most impoverished 40% of households in their economies, inaccessible financial services compound problems of poverty. Financial inclusion can fight poverty as it opens doors for people to improve their lives. The pace of technological advancement around the world is bringing universal access to financial services closer to fruition.

The Global Unbanked

Unbanked people are not connected to any type of financial institution. The most commonly cited reasons for being unbanked are not having enough money, account expenses, the distance of financial services and insufficient documentation. Nearly half of the unbanked population falls into just seven economies. The highest numbers of unbanked people are in China and India. It can be clearly noted that banking and poverty are closely related.

“Financial tools for savings, insurance, payments and credit are a vital need for poor people, especially women, and can help families and whole communities lift themselves out of poverty,” says Melinda Gates. Without a bank account, people cannot sufficiently save and the cash is not well protected. The digital economy also has the benefit of keeping a clear record of financial activities, which banks can use when underwriting loans. Loans are among the financial tools that are essential to financial growth and stability.

The Gender Gap

Women make up the majority of the unbanked population in most developing countries. Women may face deepened or additional gender-based barriers to account ownership, rooted in financial institutions, governments or society.

Financial institutions often lack products and policies that are gender-inclusive. For instance, women may find it difficult to obtain the identification or the assets needed to open and maintain an account, sometimes due to government-enforced barriers. Additionally, banking-related expenses are also a burden for women looking to enter the formal economy. Finally, the responsibility of unpaid household labor, along with barriers to education, keep many women from earning enough money to access financial services.

The Societal Roles of Women

Women may earn sufficient money but could be part of society that does not allow for them to connect to a financial institution.

For instance, the tradition of men being the head of household and in control of the finances leaves some women with little to no influence in matters of money. Approximately one in 10 women in developing countries are not involved in spending decisions involving their own earnings.

Women’s Empowerment for Poverty Reduction

Women must be part of financial inclusion efforts as they are integral to fighting poverty. Bill Gates explains that women are most likely to be behind the decisions that benefit the family. More women-led businesses and reduced inequalities are ways that an emphasis on financial inclusion for women can further a nation’s development.

Financial Inclusion Using Fintech

An emerging industry is making strides in financial inclusion. Financial technology (fintech) can be described as technological innovations in the processes and products of financial services. Fintech offers solutions to many of the problems at the root of financial exclusion. A fundamental problem is the lack of time or money to travel to distant financial institutions. Fintech has given users the convenience of accessing their accounts and financial services on a mobile device.

Fintech development has been gaining momentum since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Touchless transactions and banking reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 and have led many to embrace digital payment, in business and in personal practice. Fintech leaders are proving that underserved communities can be reached through financial technologies. Significantly, this helps foster financial stability for the formerly excluded.

Female-led fintech, Oraan, is working toward financial equality in Pakistan because women make up 48% of the population but only 6.3% of the formal economy. Oraan developed a platform that allows for digital savings groups. Savings groups can help empower women and ensure financial equity as they are well-established financial tools.

The Road to Universal Access

Because financial inclusion can fight poverty, digitized financial services are an effective way to improve access and inclusion. Online banking communities are empowering individuals and opening up opportunities for economic growth. By facilitating conversations about finances, informing underserved groups on the best financial practices and ensuring digital finance infrastructure is accessible, the world can make greater strides toward financial inclusion.

Payton Unger
Photo: Flickr

Digital Payment System in Pakistan
Pakistan has a primarily cash-based economy that thriving illegal markets and low government revenue plagues. A new digital payment system in Pakistan could change this. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Pakistani government worked in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to launch this brand new digital cash transfer system. Additional support came from the United Nations, the World Bank and the United Kingdom.

This new digital payment system called Raast or “direct way” can instantly transfer money between two entities. Although the idea is not new and there are several other financial transaction systems on the market, Raast is the first one that received sponsorship from the Pakistani government, linking financial institutions and government entities. The government’s main goals are to make money transfers more transparent and thereby reduce corruption, increase government revenue and create a more inclusive economy.

Increased Transparency, Tax Revenue and a Less Corrupt Economy

A payment system such as Raast records every transaction in real-time and establishes a log of payments. This allows users to keep track of their transfers, and since the information is visible to all involved parties, users can report complaints or mistakes much more easily. When the Pakistani government and its citizens use Raast, it makes it possible for citizens to receive their pensions, salaries or other payments from the government much more quickly. The increased efficiency and transparency also supports small businesses and other micro-enterprises. Instead of paying cash or sending checks through the mail, they can instantly pay suppliers and distributors. This makes running a business more efficient, reliable, accessible and less prone to corruption.

The new digital payment system in Pakistan also makes it easier for the government to collect taxes by using the technology to track how much people owe and when they made payments. In 2019, the World Bank reported that Pakistan’s government collected half of what, theoretically, it should have been able to take based on its economy. Tax evasion is widespread, but it is also complicated and timely to file taxes in Pakistan. The World Bank found that there are many individuals and companies that would like to file taxes, but do not because of the time and money the process requires.

A More Inclusive Economy

In 2018, the Global Findex reported that only 7% of women age 15 and older had a bank account, and of the most economically disadvantaged 40% (men and women), 14.2% had an account. Particularly during the pandemic, it has been difficult for these underserved groups to receive government support without a bank account. Raast has the potential to serve vulnerable groups because it does not require people to travel to a physical bank, and is cheaper and easier for individuals to set up than a traditional bank account. In a report about payment systems, the World Bank stated that “secure, affordable, and accessible payment systems and services help expand financial inclusion, foster development and support financial stability.” However, without proper implementation, an endeavor such as this digital payment system in Pakistan could fall short of its goal.

In a statement at the launch, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA) Queen Máxima, discussed how important it is for all banks and service providers to adopt the new technology and to encourage individuals to use it instead of cash. If enough people and institutions use the program, it will reach its accessibility potential and spur economic growth. As Queen Máxima stated in her keynote address, the hope for this new digital payment system in Pakistan is above all to create a more digital and accessible economy.

 Caitlin Harjes
Photo: Flickr

Public Development BanksIn November 2020, the world’s 450 Public Development Banks (PDBs) gathered at the first-ever global summit, the Finance in Common Summit. The summit emphasized that PDBs have an essential role in meeting the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that encompasses both short-term responses and sustainable recovery measures. The commitment of PDBs to a joint effort in support of vulnerable communities around the world is an unprecedented step toward inclusive global development.

Public Development Banks

Public Development Banks are essential to the global economy and play a key role in fighting extreme poverty and hunger by bridging finance and public policy. PDBs are supported or controlled by governments but are legally and financially independent. Investments by PDBs made up 10% of yearly public and private investments in 2018, though all PDB investments are public, allowing the banks to openly and actively direct finances toward the evolution of international economic order and inclusion of declining countries with fewer limitations. This makes PDBs especially effective at supporting change for institutions, economies and infrastructure that reflects their public mandate to work in favor of entrepreneurs and vulnerable groups, such as women and children. None of the financing done by PDBs is related to consumers, individual accounts or credit.

A Cause for Cooperation

Conditions in areas suffering from extreme poverty are declining due to climate change and COVID-19. Developing countries have limited capacity to adapt their unstable agricultural methods and systems to changing climates. The capacity that does exist, including aid received, has been strained by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic and social issues that accompany it. Common hardships have shed light on the need for united relief efforts that reach all regions and societies, and Public Development Banks have taken action by joining in unprecedented discussion and collective decisionmaking. The desired outcome was a diverse and collaborative movement to achieve the SDGs and respond to the challenges arising from COVID-19 and climate change.

The Future of PDB Financing

The developments made at the Finance in Common summit are clearly communicated in a joint declaration made by all 450 PDBs. The Public Development Banks came to a consensus for aligned strategies and investments that will support sustainable growth in societies and the global economy, all while prioritizing eco-friendliness. Future activity of PDBs will be targeted at attaining the SDGs and responding to a changing climate. Another outcome of the summit was a group of PDBs that will focus investments on rural sectors and agriculture around the world to help eradicate poverty and hunger.

Steps that PDBs have committed to taking together include transitioning investments to support low-carbon and climate-resilient solutions, renewable and clean energy and ecosystem restoration. Also on the global PDB agenda is improving the accessibility of education, housing, hygiene and sanitation as well as advancing social and financial inclusion. These measures were developed with the world’s most vulnerable in mind: young people and the elderly, members of rural communities, refugees and small-scale producers, among others. The alliance of PDBs is dedicated to achieving these goals while upholding best practices in finance and global inclusion.

PDBs Fighting Global Poverty

Public Development Banks have displayed a capacity to serve as leaders in the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. Their landmark summit can be a model for future progress toward equality in all parts of the world. In the middle of widespread crisis and instability, such international cooperation is needed more than ever.

– Payton Unger
Photo: Flickr

Nourish Impoverished Communities
It is no secret that the United States is home to some of the biggest brands in the world. From cosmetics to food products, American brands influence many things global consumers see on their shelves in one way or another. Here is how four American brands help nourish impoverished communities.

Avon

Avon Cosmetics has been benefitting women since the mid-1950s through the creation of the Avon Foundation. For the past 65 years, more than $1 billion has gone toward sustaining women and their families all over the globe. The Avon Foundation’s humanitarian practices have opened up in more than 50 markets across nations, allowing women to feel empowered and begin their own businesses. Any woman can apply to become a representative using Avon’s online website.

Avon Connect is a program that sets the foundation for women to begin their dream businesses. The program provides education on the basics of sales and marketing to nearly 500,000 women worldwide. Through participation, women create jobs for themselves by becoming one of Avon’s Beauty Advisers.

Nestle

Nestle does not only offer water and coffee, the company also implements programs to help nourish impoverished communities around the globe. The company was originally a Swiss brand but has since expanded its locations worldwide. Now, the United States is one of its larger consumers, and it works with farmers and suppliers all over the world. By providing work for those in rural areas, Nestle creates a sustainable supply of food in those communities.

Nestle’s program Global Alliance for YOUth has helped alleviate the problem of unemployment within younger demographics. It provides work opportunities for young people, despite the lack of experience they may have. The program also encourages young people to become entrepreneurs and take control of their own business. By 2030, YOUth plans to benefit 10 million youths by providing employment and skills to help further their lives. Nestle’s Global Alliance for YOUth program brings together 21 international companies to help employ around 15 million youths by 2022.

Walmart

Walmart has provided neighborhoods with fair prices and good products since its beginning. The company aims for its global suppliers to be sustainable and responsible in the workplace. In fact, it has over 100,000 responsible suppliers around the globe. Walmart strengthens not only consumers but also those who help nourish impoverished communities.

In 2010, Walmart decided to actively help alleviate global hunger. More than $2 billion in food donations and grants went toward starving communities. In 2015, it donated around four billion meals to help the hungry. Walmart hopes to benefit an additional four million in 2020 by providing more meals and increasing education.

Walmart contributes to its local communities no matter the country. In 2019, Walmart provided over two million jobs in 27 countries. Employment is beneficial for those working toward upward mobility out of poverty. Walmart, with its 11,300 locations, helps provide just that.

Visa

Almost two billion people worldwide have not implemented banking into their lives. Visa is here to help fix that. In one year alone, Visa provided financial systems for nearly 500 million people. Its help went to women and those living in rural areas —those least likely to have any sort of financial aid.

Through Visa, many have been able to better support and sustain their small businesses. As a result, many have been able to acquire the skills they need to efficiently work in their business and develop the most appropriate services for growing their economy. Visa’s Practical Business Skills, founded in 2019, has helped small businesses from the beginning stages, allowing more efficient and proper company growth.

For instance, in Southeast Asia, Visa partnered with a large payment service to encourage all to improve their banking literacy. In Mexico, over 11 million people have started their own banking account with a Visa-partnered Mexican financial institution. Through the global implementation of Visa, people have been able to improve their finances, which helps nourish impoverished communities worldwide.

Global poverty is a huge and pressing issue. These American big brands can help people manage their lives with a bit more ease by providing support.

Karina Wong
Photo: Flickr

Mobile BankingMobile banking is a clear step toward financial literacy and freedom. It allows users to access and manage accounts without needing physical access to a bank. It is a huge asset and accepted norm in countries like the United States, where it is used by over three-quarters of the population. By 2021, there will be an estimated 7 billion mobile banking users. But in countries where much of the population doesn’t have access to financial institutions, mobile banks presents an option that allows users to gain the financial freedom they wouldn’t otherwise have. Traditionally, without access to banks, there is no access to bank accounts. This makes it not only difficult to save and protect money but also nearly impossible to access loans. Below are three countries where going mobile improves financial inclusion.

Kenya

In 2011, around 80% of the Kenyan population didn’t have a bank account. This was revolutionized by the introduction of mobile banking, resulting in an incredible increase in financial accounts up to 75% in 2014. The percentage of Kenyan’s with a mobile account has since jumped to around 80% in 2019, with that number still growing. Though mobile banking is taking hold in many African countries, Kenya leads the charge of mobile adaption. This success is evident through the country’s recent economic growth, averaging 5.7% in 2019, one of the fastest-growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mobile banking has been succeeded so rapidly and fruitfully in Kenya due to its incredibly low cost and user ease. After the infrastructure is created, all that’s needed is an old flip phone and a banking SIM card. These products are relatively easy and inexpensive to get, even in countries with fewer resources. Mobile banking has allowed Kenyan’s to save money, send and receive it with ease, apply for loans, and has led to financial inclusion. Kenya acts as a clear leader in developmental growth through mobile banking.

India

In 2017, India had the second largest unbanked population, second only to China, with 190 million of its citizens left without access. In the same year, around 48% of India’s banks were inactive, only adding to the inaccessibility. Despite such a large number of citizens left without a bank account, over 50% of these individuals do have a mobile phone. With the proper infrastructure, mobile banking could revolutionize the way Indians send, receive and save their money. For low-income populations in India, most financial transactions occur in cash, a method that is not conducive to economic growth for poor families. With more universal access to banking, low-income populations could receive their income through direct deposit and pay their bills directly from their account, using their phone. This system promotes saving and also allows tracking of financial habits, producing an easier system for low-income individuals to amass credit and become eligible for loans. As the internet becomes increasingly accessible in India, mobile banking is expected to rise, and with it, financial inclusion.

Indonesia

In opposition to the other nations discussed, Indonesia has a much lower prevalence of mobile banking, but just as it has in Kenya and India, going mobile could revolutionize financial inclusion in Indonesia. Only about 20% of Indonesian’s currently have a bank account, but almost 40% of the population have mobile subscriptions, suggesting mobile banking has huge potential in the country. In 2020, an unexpected source has begun to jumpstart the exponential growth of mobile banking in Indonesia. In the wake of COVID-19, many physical banks are closed, and even those who previously had access are unable to interact with their finances. One bank, namely Bank Rayat Indonesia has even seen a 10% month to month increase in mobile banking, an unprecedented growth. Indonesia presents as a nearly perfect candidate for a “mobile revolution” given its high mobile penetration, low banking rate, and the recent inability of traditional banks to function. Despite the many challenges and tragedies COVID-19 has caused, it could be the driving force for a mobile revolution in Indonesia

— Jazmin Johnson

Photo: Flickr

Kazakhstan Bank Debts
Kazakhstan, located in Central Asia, has implemented a program to help nearly 500,000 citizens get out of bank debts. The program started in June 2019 and will cost over $274 million to execute. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev hopes that by forgiving bad loans given out by the country’s banks, Kazakhstan’s bank debts will decrease, releasing some of the strain on the economy. This policy will also help increase business in the banking sector of the economy, opening up more jobs for individuals below the poverty line.

4 Facts About Kazakhstan Bank Debts

  1. Kazakhstan’s economy has fallen in recent years. The country’s economic system rated 59 overall in 2019. The country has fallen by 3.7 points in the past few years and this is because of a steep decrease in its fiscal health. The unemployment rate is at 4.9 percent and the annual GDP is $477.6 billion. However, the economy’s fiscal health has faced a sharp decline. Over the past year, the country’s financial stability has steadily decreased due to poor working environments and high prices on goods. The country’s goal is to reduce Kazakhstan’s bank debts and increase financial security.

  2. Private banks caused the bank debts. One-sixth of Kazakhstan’s population holds bad loans written by private banks. Bank bailouts have been occurring in the country for a decade. The government provides at least $18 billion in private banks to keep their businesses running. Since Tokayev’s election in June 2019, he has introduced a policy to stop bank bailouts that the government provided.

  3. This is not necessarily a bad thing for poverty. Although the citizens holding bank debts may be living under the poverty line, the government’s forgiveness is a positive change. By ending Kazakhstan’s bank debts, the country’s monetary freedom should increase. Although this freedom grew in 2019, there is still plenty of room for growth. In 2018, 4.3 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. The debt release policy will help alleviate the debts of about 18 million people. About 500,000 people cannot manage their debts because of bank loans. The loan forgiveness policy will help individuals get rid of their debts so they can spend more money on essentials. By forgiving the loans, the country hopes to balance its economy. This will help individuals escape the poverty line, both through their lack of debts and through pay increases.

  4. The debt forgiveness policy is based on the amount owed. According to Kazakhstan’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, individuals with up to $800 of debt will have it forgiven completely. Individuals with over $800 will have $800 erased from their debt. This will help individuals like Anara Ryskulova, who has four small children and only makes $400 a month. Because of her low income, Ryskulova is dependent on credit and loans to provide for her family and pay her rent.

Since his election in June 2019, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has implemented a policy to stop bank bailouts. For a decade, the Kazakhstan government has been bailing out privately owned banks. The policy will not only increase the banking sector of the government but will also help the individuals who live below the poverty line. By decreasing the bank debts, affected individuals will have more money for essentials. By implementing this policy, Kazakhstan’s president will not only increase the country’s GDP but ultimately, help the citizens live above the poverty line.

Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in Micronesia
A lack of credit access in Micronesia is limiting Micronesia’s ability to develop effective solutions to widespread poverty. Limited credit regulation and poor banking infrastructure (Micronesia has only 14 bank branches per 100,000 adults) have hindered attempts at poverty reduction. An estimated 16 percent of the population lives below the international poverty line (individuals or families whose income per person is less than $1.90 per day) while an estimated 42 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line.

Infrastructure

A lack of effective financial regulation plays an important role in this problem, as Micronesia lacks both the public (credit registry) and private (credit bureau) infrastructure necessary to ensure that financial institutions can confidently provide loans to businesses and individuals. This has produced an extremely small lending practice in Micronesia, as banks and other institutions face a substantial risk when offering loans. Beyond simply the difficulty in verifying that debtors can pay back their loans, there is little legal protection for creditors. When a debtor defaults on a loan, secured creditors do not receive payment first, and if a debtor files for bankruptcy, there are no legal guidelines establishing relief for the creditor. This creates little incentive for lending institutions to grant credit, as there are often serious questions about the prospect of getting their money back.

While poor financial regulation may not appear to have an immediate effect on the spread of poverty, it plays a substantial role in limiting prospects for poverty reduction. The two largest sectors of Micronesia’s economy are the service industry and agriculture, which together make up around 81 percent of Micronesia’s GDP. The lack of credit access in Micronesia has amplified the structural difficulties of poverty, as many lack the money necessary to purchase land or start a business. They also cannot reliably acquire such capital from banks, which harms the overall growth of these vital sectors.

Credit access also plays a substantial role in agricultural production. The agriculture industry in Micronesia is declining as it holds an incredibly small portion of Micronesia’s total exports compared to agriculture’s importance in the country’s GDP. Around seven percent of Micronesia’s exports are in agriculture, and the sector is seeing its impact decline overall, as few can afford to remain farmers. Credit access enables farmers to acquire better agricultural inputs, which functions to provide a long-term solution to poverty in Micronesia by raising income levels across the impoverished population, growing individual incomes and strongly affecting Micronesia’s economy.

Business confidence

Beyond simply limiting access for those seeking the startup funds to create a business, the lack of effective credit infrastructure has hampered overall business confidence and undermined faith in the prospects for sustained growth. Constraints on capital have limited the ability for pre-existing businesses to ensure continued access to the money necessary to provide financial stability. This lack of confidence, while largely sentiment-based, has produced an environment which harms overall prospects for economic activity.

The Good News

Fortunately, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has begun investing in local banking infrastructure to develop credit access in Micronesia as a part of its Private Sector Development program. In a series of loans beginning in 2006, the ADB has provided over $9 million to Micronesia, with the goal of improving bank credit and narrowing the gap between public and private employment to develop more jobs in the private sector. The program has thus far been a success, as the employment gap has decreased by 20 percent signaling the growth of private industry.  The ADB can offer loans for land ownership via a partnership with the Federated States of Micronesia Development Bank (FSMDB). It can also improve building infrastructure with one loan recipient saying that he was able to make his used clothing store earthquake-resistant to protect his business against a sudden loss in revenue.

Moreover, Micronesia is implementing reforms to protect financial institutions and improve the government’s capacity to register security rights in moveable properties. As a part of the World Bank’s Doing Business program, established in 2008, Micronesia had the goal of improving legal protections for creditors. Since then, the Micronesian government has developed more reforms which allow for the use of moveable assets as collateral when seeking credit and expanding security agreements to codify the use of such assets.

One cannot underestimate the importance of credit access in Micronesia as it plays an integral role in maintaining vital sectors of the Micronesian economy. Not only does credit impact the country’s economic growth, but it also helps lift individuals out of poverty by providing sustained sources of income. While Micronesia requires more work to develop stronger infrastructure, the Micronesian Government, with the help of the ADB, has begun taking steps in the right direction.

– Alexander Sherman
Photo: Flickr

E-Commerce Markets in Africa
Africa holds less than 2 percent of the global e-commerce market, but an increase in participation could benefit the continent on a massive economic scale.

In fact, it has been shown that e-commerce allows consumers to connect to businesses as well as to other consumers in order to exchange goods via the Internet. E-commerce benefits global markets by improving efficiency in distribution channels and creating a more prominent market presence for individuals or businesses trying to sell products. For developing countries in Africa, one of the main obstacles in gaining access to e-commerce markets is limited access to banks.

Mobile Money

Globally, roughly 1.7 billion adults remain without access to a financial institution.

In order to alleviate this problem, mobile banking services focus on the high percentage of adults who have mobile phones in Africa. In South Africa, about 90 percent of the adult population owns a mobile device; whereas, Tanzania has the lowest with only about 75 percent of the adult population owning a mobile device.

The integration of mobile banking companies has increased dramatically over the past decade with 135 live mobile monetary services available in 2017. In fact, the number of subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa hit 44 percent in 2017. Mobile banking is attractive to people who do not physically have access to a bank or who do not have a permanent home address. It allows them to set up an account and protect their money electronically while giving them the freedom to interact financially on a global scale through e-commerce.

The Problem of Rural Communities

A smaller density of people lives in rural areas so there is a lower prospective income for operators who wish to set up mobile services in these regions. Roughly 20 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is spread over 70 percent of the land. Consequently, operators in rural communities only secure a revenue of about one-tenth compared to those who work in urban areas.

Since many individuals rely on mobile banking to engage in the global market, reducing this barrier is essential to the continued development of e-commerce markets in Africa. As a result, in 2018, Uganda’s Communications Commission decided to pair with satellite firms Intelsat and Gilat in order to help increase access for those living in two rural communities.

The Prospective Value of E-Commerce Markets in Africa

A study by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates 3.7 trillion dollars (6 percent of GDP) could be added to the developing world’s collective GDP by 2025 due to a growing digital finance sector. It is 80 to 90 percent less expensive for financial institutions to provide mobile banking services than it is to create new physical branches. This method allows financial institutions to penetrate more of the population in developing and rural areas.

The e-commerce market has the potential to grow enormously over the next five years. Although access to financial institutions is an obstacle that many less privileged individuals face, an increase in mobile money services is helping to create parity. Financial inclusion means an upward trend in the global market participation, and through the development of internet-based trade, the global economy will experience more consumers, products and efficient distribution.

Tera Hofmann
Photo: Flickr