Access to financial services has long been believed to lift people out of poverty. Although 700 million people have gained access to formal financial services in the past few years, 2 billion remain excluded.
IEG examines the relevance and effectiveness of seven years (FY07–13) of World Bank Group support to financial inclusion and its impact on the poor. IEG found that the World Bank Group contributed significantly to progress in financial inclusion globally and in client countries. It has "reached" a substantial share of the microfinance industry. Its support is strategically aligned with countries' needs, focusing primarily on countries with low inclusion rates and addressing development priorities. The Bank Group has also contributed to the sustainability of microfinance services.
Those who remain excluded will increasingly be distributed across many countries, predominantly in rural areas. Striking a balance between the costs and benefits of universal inclusion and weighing these against the cost and benefits of other competing development priorities will be essential.
IEG has four recommendations:
Clarify the World Bank Group's approach on financial inclusion by making it evidence-based and comprehensive, focused on enabling access to a range of financial services with benefits for the poor in a sustainable manner and specifying when and how to use subsidies.
Find and replicate innovative delivery models through a sequenced and evidence-based approach to innovation.
Strengthen partnerships by advocating clear strategies, results frameworks, and monitoring and evaluation arrangements.
Implement new tools in country-level diagnostics and strategy to guide financial inclusion work.