When Mastercard made a commitment to bring affordable financial access to 500 million people by 2020 and 40 million micro merchants by 2021, many more promises came with it. In my role, the biggest of those promises is to uncover the systemic causes of financial inclusion among businesses; then gather insights, develop tools and forge partnerships to remove those barriers.
Let’s start with the numbers: there are approximately 162 million formal micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in emerging markets globally. These small businesses generate an estimated nine out of ten new jobs around the world today and are key drivers of economic growth.
But there are fundamental problems with how these businesses operate. First, many of these businesses transact only in cash, but a reliance on cash makes them vulnerable to theft. It also leaves no data trail, leading to problem number two.
Without any historic business records, it’s extremely difficult for businesses to access financing. In emerging markets, MSMEs are facing a $5.2 trillion finance gap, which means that almost 60% of this segment’s potential finance demand is being overlooked.
But once we identify the problems, we can respond with solutions. For us, this includes:
- Channel Expansion: We value our long-standing partnerships with banks, but to drive change, we know we need to broaden our reach through other channels. My team and I look for innovation and scalability to drive impact, leading to deeper relationships with partners like the IFC, and new relationships with emerging fintechs and alternative lenders. In a recent example of new partnerships making a difference, we worked with Unilever and created a digital platform in Kenya called Jaza Duka that allows micro and small businesses to access and use low-risk micro-credit, underwritten by a participant bank.
- Segment-Based Strategy: My team worked hard to develop a segment-based strategy that will give small business owners a single relationship with their bank that addresses both their consumer and business needs. We’re focused on addressing the total needs of small business owners by bringing together products, services and acceptance capabilities, driven by our commitment to enable small business owners to buy, operate, and sell.
- Moving Beyond Payments: Our innovation, digitization and facilitation are giving banks, financial institutions and other partners the tools they need to function not only as service providers, but as trusted advisors to small business owners. For example, Mastercard Track, a global trade platform which we developed in collaboration with Microsoft, addresses key small business challenges by streamlining and automating the procure-to-pay-process – enabling businesses to manage business identity, compliance and payments efficiently.
Access to finance is just one topic I’ll be discussing at the SME Finance Forum in Madrid on Tuesday. I’m looking forward to joining others to shed light on the challenges and unlock the solutions to help our MSMEs, and, in turn, our global economy thrive.