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April 16, 2015

World Bank hails 700m drop in global ‘unbanked’

Surge in mobile payments has increased poor's use of banking.

By Jimmy Nicholls

The number of "unbanked" adults who do not engage with financial services has dropped by 700 million since 2011 because of a surge in mobile payments, according to the World Bank.

Almost two-thirds of adults around the globe are now thought to have a bank account, which the United Nations believes is an important step in alleviating poverty.

Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, said: "Access to financial services can serve as a bridge out of poverty. We have set a hugely ambitious goal – universal financial access by 2020 – and now we have evidence that we’re making major progress.

"This effort will require many partners – credit card companies, banks, microcredit institutions, the United Nations, foundations, and community leaders. But we can do it, and the payoff will be millions of people lifted out of poverty."

Technology was cited as a particular boon to Sub-Saharan Africa, one of the world’s poorest regions, particular because of the rise of mobile money accounts.

In Kenya, for example, more than half of adults paying utility bills use a mobile phone to do so, whilst a quarter of Tanzanians receiving payments related to farming do so through a mobile account.

"When a woman has an account and a safe place to save outside the home, she also has greater control over finances and household incomes," said Sri Mulyani Indrawati, MD and COO of the World Bank.

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"Equipped with access to formal savings and credit, women participate more in the economy. They can set aside funds for emergencies, for schooling, or for starting a business. This is an important stepping stone out of poverty and towards more equality."

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