In late 2010 the Gates Foundation held the Global Savings Forum. I participated on a panel chaired by Bill Gates. It covered “New Partnerships for Technology-Enabled Financial Inclusion”. The interest from Bill and Melinda Gates was personal – they had witnessed how people living on $2 a day or less around the world need an easy, safe and affordable place to save and build financial security for their future. Bill and Melinda knew that to make global financial inclusion a reality, they would need many organizations working together from both public and private sectors – therefore the Global Savings Forum was established. Bill set the tone by making it clear that “technology should be able to help the poor participate in the greater economy”. I advocated for an open collaborative model, and emphasized that scale will come from a rich ecosystem of partners.
Then in late January of this year, I attended the World Economic Forum in Davos and the conversation continued. (See video http://www.weforum.org/content/mobile-financial-services-all). There was much enthusiasm by attendee for the potential for total financial inclusion and for that to “move the needle” regarding inclusive growth. Financial inclusion means everyone has affordable access to banking products for life and work. Inclusive growth means as countries grow their economies, poor people participate along with the elite of a country.
Both events left me very hopeful – the biggest foundation and the most prestigious conference in the world both talking about the promise of mobile banking. So what is holding this back? It is really the regulatory structure and business model to create a vibrant local ecosystem. Mobile banking requires new relationships, new partnerships. Without regulatory structures and the right business models, there is a lack of cooperation, obstacles, and great inefficiencies. With a proper regulatory structure and win-win business models, progress will be quick.