How Financial Inclusion Can Move People Out of Poverty

Guest post by Nina Nieuwoudt
Global Product Development: New Consumers
Originally Published on LinkedIn on October 30, 2017

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Around the world this week, governments, multilaterals, and companies are coming together to celebrate Financial Inclusion Week. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the progress that we’ve made in extending financial access to un-banked and underbanked communities, and also a time to take honest stock of how far we still have to go. As Mastercard’s Chief Product Officer Michael Miebach noted following his speech at Money20/20 last week – we’re making progress, but at our current pace we won’t achieve full financial inclusion for another 200 years. Needless to say, we’ve got work to do.

The theme of this year’s Financial Inclusion Week is how new products and partnerships can enable financial inclusion. At Mastercard, this topic is close to our hearts. We believe that cross-sector partnerships are key to extending access to consumers at the base of the pyramid and building products that truly improve their lives.

To be clear, promoting inclusion is not corporate social responsibility for us. Not only is pushing for a world where everyone has access to the security, transparency, and control of digital payments the right thing to do, but it’s also critical to the future of business.

We’re proud that this commitment to new partnership models can be found at all levels of our company. Several of these partnerships have been highlighted in a joint report by Accion’s Center for Financial Inclusion and the Institute for International Finance, entitled “How Financial Institutions and Fintechs are Partnering for Inclusion: Lessons from the Frontlines”. The report recognizes our collaboration with Kopo Kopo, a fintech start-up, and Diamond Trust Bank to create a QR-payment ecosystem in Kenya that allows customers to pay with their phones, by simply taking a photo of a QR code and manually entering the transaction amount.

Later this week, I’ll be speaking about ways financial institutions and fintechs can partner during a webinar hosted by the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion.

Beyond our partnerships, we’ve done our own on-the-ground research. For example, we recently released a report that offer insights into how to build a digital payments ecosystem for small and micro businesses. To learn more about how we’re supporting financial inclusion across the company, watch this video.

Despite these gains, we still face a host of challenges in reaching the two billion people who are locked out of the formal financial system. At Mastercard, we know that the only way we will ever transform this equation is by creating partnerships that leverage relevant sector expertise, and that offer in-depth knowledge of base-of-the-pyramid needs – from health and education, to payments and digital finance.

It is perhaps the biggest ecosystem we have tried to build yet, but it is incumbent on all of us to do so. 200 years is too long to wait.

Read the original post on LinkedIn here.

Together We Can Change The World

Guest post by Timothy Murphy
General Counsel and Chief Franchise Officer
Originally published on LinkedIn on September 25, 2017

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Want to change the world? Allow the private sector to do what it does best. 

For the past week, the world has watched as heads of state and global business leaders convened in New York City for the 72nd United Nations General Assembly. The agenda was far from light. Topics ranged from food security to climate change to the refugee crisis to healthcare. The task at hand – achieving the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 – is a daunting one and it’s become widely understood that the private sector has a critical role to play in ensuring those goals are reached.

But the public and private sectors are also beginning to recognize that philanthropic dollars alone will not get us there. More and more corporate philanthropy is being viewed as a catalyst for action that connects back to longer-term business objectives.

This principle of doing well and doing good is not new, but it’s especially important for the private sector, maybe now more than ever. At Mastercard, we don’t see the two concepts as mutually exclusive. Rather, we believe companies can deliver on their business objectives and have a positive impact on the world around them. In fact, it’s a must to do both.

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Last week at UNGA, my colleagues and I were at the forefront driving conversations to help accelerate progress around these problems which threaten to overwhelm our society. We announced a partnership with PEPFAR to use technology to help fight HIV/AIDS, we led discussions on the future of the workforce, gender equality, and humanitarian finance, and our CEO Ajay Banga spoke about the need to align core capabilities with the SDGs.

Throughout these discussions, we had a common refrain: engage the private sector to do what it does best. When this expertise is applied to societal challenges, we are able to do so much more to improve the lives of those who suffer most.

For Mastercard, this means using our technology, data, expertise and investments to build successful business models. When we take this approach with our partners, we can build high-impact solutions that are scalable for them and sustainable for us. For example, we have helped make it faster, safer and more efficient for NGOs to deliver humanitarian aid through the products like the Mastercard Aid Network and Mastercard Send. And we developed 2Kuze, a mobile marketplace that addresses the needs of small farmers by providing a way for them to efficiently and transparently run their businesses.

We know this strategy works and that’s one of the reasons we signed onto the United Nations Global Compact, which calls on companies to align their strategies with societal goals. As the first company in the payments industry to sign onto the Global Compact, we see this as an integral step in our efforts to do well as a company and do good for society.

Our commitments didn’t stop there. We also joined Business Call to Action (BCtA), which challenges companies to develop inclusive business models to reach the billions of people trapped in poverty. We are already more than half-way to our goal of connecting 500 million people to financial services by 2020 and reaching 40 million micro- and small merchants by 2022.

It’s great progress, but there’s still much work to be done. I read the other day that there are less than 5,000 days until December 31, 2030 – the UN’s deadline for achieving the SDGs. To some that may seem like a long time, to others not so much. At Mastercard, we see it as 5,000 opportunities to come to work and say, “What can we do to help change the world today?” Our CEO calls it bringing your heart and mind to work. It’s important because these issues impact us all and we all have a role to play in solving them. So, how can we work with your organization to help change the world today? Every little bit counts.

Read the original post on LinkedIn here

Peace and the Private Sector: The Business Role for Goal 16

Guest Post by Stone Conroy
Senior Manager for Strategic Partnerships
Alliance for Peacebuilding


At the United Nations General Assembly in September, the Global Alliance for Reporting on Peaceful, Just, and Inclusive Societies hosted an event titled Better Business for a Better World. It was held at the law firm White&Case and moderated by award-winning NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff—over 150 people from the private sector, the United Nations, and civil society were present, and the theme was how the private sector can engage with Goal 16 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): promote just, peaceful, and inclusive societies.

Goal 16 offers a new paradigm for peace and development and is a critical component to the rest of the SDGs. The preamble of the SDGs declares, “we are determined to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.” Goal 16 is also important for private sector engagement in the SDGs, and has been described by one company as “foundational to achieving the other UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

Why SDG 16 is Critical to the Private Sector

The United Nations Global Compact lays out a framework for Goal 16 that focuses on three interconnected challenges to businesses (corruption, violent conflict, and weak rule of law) and describes the necessity of anti-corruption, peacebuilding, and rule of law efforts to create an environment where business can thrive. This was a common theme at the Better Business for a Better World event—a representative from the RELX Group at the event noted, “when rule of law is strong, business and society flourishes,” a sentiment echoed by several other private sector companies.

Many businesses have come out strongly in support of the SDGs, but Goal 16 often isn’t the most popular—a survey of over 2,000 sustainable business professionals revealed that climate action (SDG 13) was the most supported goal among corporate and brand respondents, followed by SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), and SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production). Some private sector actors believe that SDG 16 is purely the mandate of nonprofits and government: a report on the SDGs by The Fletcher School supported with a grant from Citigroup posits, “some goals, such as SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions), are enablers for which much of the onus must fall on noncorporate actors.”

Some businesses have taken a different view, and see themselves as key actors in achieving Goal 16. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) notes that “just, peaceful and inclusive societies provide a firm foundation for business to thrive” and technology firm SAP explains on their SDG webpage that business can often exacerbate conflict and therefore must play a central role in creating peace. The CEO Guide the to the SDGs highlights that the SDGs provide an opportunity to gain society’s trust and establish new opportunities for positive engagement, and supporting peace and justice is a great place to start. A year ago, the International Peace Institute hosted an event on why Goal 16 is good for business that highlighted several ways that the private sector can promote peace, justice, and inclusive societies.

How Can the Private Sector Build Peaceful, Just, and Inclusive Societies?

Peace, justice, and inclusion are undoubtedly good for business, but how can businesses play a positive role in promoting these values via the SDG framework? The United Nations Global Compact described a few ways the private sector can engage with Goal 16 in a report from 2015: at the micro level, corporate responsibility initiatives can play a role in increasing the transparency, accountability, and inclusivity of a company’s operations. At the macro level, businesses can champion the rule of law, human rights, labor rights, environmental issues, and anti-corruption initiatives.

The private sector has its own view of how business can contribute to Goal 16. Business for 2030 provides examples on companies working on each of the Global Goals, explains how the private sector can work on the Goals, and provides partnership resources. The SDG Industry Matrix contains several case studies on businesses from seven sectors working on SDG 16, as well as opportunities for shared value through collaboration. One great resource is a guide from the UN Global Compact and KPMG on Responsible Business Advancing Peace. Private sector tools such as the SDG Business Hub, the SDG Compass, and the SDG Selector can help businesses think critically about how to engage Global Goals— for Goal 16, they note that businesses should implement conflict-sensitive policies and practices, conduct risk and impact assessments to identify and mitigate risks of contributing to corruption, violence, and conflict, and engage in public-private dialogues, partnerships and collective action for conflict prevention, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, anti-corruption, and the rule of law.

What these tools do not provide, however, are suggestions for where businesses can turn if they want to engage specifically on Goal 16—if a company wants to engage in partnerships around peacebuilding, anti-corruption, or rule of law to advance Goal 16, how do they begin? One place is the United Nations Business for Peace network, a platform of close to 150 leading companies and business associations from 37 countries dedicated to catalyzing collaborative action to advance peace. The UN provides guidance for companies working in conflict, as well as how business can advance sustainable development by supporting peace. Another good focal point is the Alliance for Peacebuilding, a global network of over 100 organizations and 15,000 people working to advance sustainable peace and security worldwide. The Alliance can help companies partner with civil society organizations working on peacebuilding around the world, turning a Global Goal into an actionable project at the local level.

From Global to Local: Partnerships for Peace

While most conversations about the private sector working on the SDGs have focused on large, multi-national corporations, it’s important to remember that the majority of business consists of micro, small, or medium size firms operating in their local communities. The same is true for the sustainable development—while large non-profits and inter-government entities work on the Sustainable Development Goals, all development efforts are ultimately a local affair.

Given this fact, it’s important that businesses working on Goal 16 work with local private sector companies, local civil society organizations, and local governments on issues related to Goal 16. The key to building a durable peace lies in collaboration—no one company, non-profit, or government can reduce conflict, eliminate corruption, or build inclusive societies. For Goal 16, it’s critical that businesses (and governments) work with local non-profits—this was highlighted by the Executive Director of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies at the Better Business for a Better World event, who said that companies can work on peace, but only if they work with civil society. Fortunately there are resources on how to engage with civil society on the SDGs—one article describes how civil society can work effectively with the private sector on the SDGs, and International Alert (a leading civil society peacebuilding organization) makes similar suggestions with regard to Goal 16 in particular.

As an article from Corporate Citizen notes, “peaceful and inclusive societies are as much a means as an end to achieving all the other goals. The herculean nature of this task means that it has to be all hands-on deck – including governments, NGOs, businesses, and communities.” If businesses are committed to building a better world, Goal 16 is a good place to start—and if the private sector embraces this goal, the odds of achieving more peaceful, just, and inclusive societies will greatly increase.