One of the biggest benefits of emerging technologies in underdeveloped countries is the opportunity of financial freedom promised to so many struggling world citizens. By using the power of the internet to reach out to millions of financial nomads, people everywhere are feeling more comfortable climbing up from the bottom of the financial empowerment ladder. As explained by the World Bank, “Financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs — transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance — delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.” In other words, it is a basic necessity to positively joining and impacting one’s economy.
As many know, I am extremely passionate about microfinance and our need for a more encompassing system to help communities work towards achieving financial inclusion for their people. Unfortunately, this has not been an easy fight, and it’s an issue we face all over the world today. While it may seem simple enough, throughout history, there have been three primary roadblocks on the path to financial freedom for many of the world’s underserved population segments:
CULTURAL DIFFERENCES: Discrepancies in cultural norms can be an intimidating factor when trying to convince new financial adaptors to trust the system. People living in remote locations have often never stepped foot in a brick and mortar bank, let alone ever worked with a financial expert. It can often be an insurmountable task to encourage trust and cultivate healthy financial relationships for the inexperienced. The emergence of new technologies is a positive development in encouraging people from developing areas of the world to take baby steps on their path to financial inclusion.
COST ROADBlOCKS: Because of the way banks are set up, the wealthy individuals and corporations are the ones given the most favor. It does not work in the bank’s interest to offer low-interest rates to poorer people not capable of pumping sufficient funds into their systems. Catering to the financially excluded population sector is most often a high-risk, low reward situation and banks are understandably not usually willing to take big risks. In addition, people with little wealth are hesitant to invest their small amount of money in accounts that do not yield high returns.
DISTANCE PROHIBITIONS: It does not take an expert in human geography to realize that remote locations are not well-served by financial institutions. Low-density population areas and those in third-world countries do not attract the traditional banking services enjoyed by citizens of developed nations. For many financial nomads, traveling to these hard to reach financial services is often beyond their level of ability and desire. Over the years, many governments have rolled out initiatives designed to make financial services more accessible.
By working to tear down these three prohibitive roadblocks, society can take positive steps in the effort to encourage financial inclusion for people of all races and economic status levels.