Recently, the World Bank set a goal of universal financial access by 2020. And it’s an ambitious one when you consider 2.5 billion adults around the world lack access to basic financial tools. And in most cases they have to rely on cash to manage their lives, leaving them vulnerable to loss or theft.
Over the past few years, governments around the world have realized that greater financial empowerment has a dual benefit: it improves the livelihood of individuals and families, and it lays the foundation for economic growth that’s more inclusive and more sustainable.
Governments are also leveraging the power and reach of technology to help strengthen the social contract with their citizens in ways that make a difference in their everyday lives. Ecosystems with public-private partnerships at the center are key to making that happen.
Let me give you an example. Anyone who provides a financial service wants to know who their counterpart is – this is called “Know Your Customer” (KYC). That’s one of the reasons why countries such as Nigeria are launching a national ID program that provides every citizen a unique personal identity, using biometric technology. Coupled with a prepaid card, this creates a secure electronic account into which people can receive salary or benefit payments. It also creates an opportunity for a better future with more choices.
The fact is, financial inclusion is an evolution where making and receiving basic payments can be the on-ramp to more complex financial products such as loans or insurance that in turn provide greater empowerment. And at every step of this process, education plays a critical role. That’s what MasterCard is focused on together with partners including governments, businesses, and NGOs in both developing and developed countries.