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.

Evolution of Corporate Sustainability

How Innovation in Infrastructure Can Help Advance the Sustainable Development Goals

In an article in Forbes on May 30, 2017, Tam Nguyen, global head of sustainability at Bechtel Corporation, describes how corporate sustainability is evolving with new technologies and innovation. Tam Nguyen leads and implements the corporate sustainability strategy throughout the company and their projects in 160 countries. As Vice-chair of USCIB’s Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Committee, he works with member companies to communicate U.S. business action, manage risks arising from new regulatory and civil society expectations and channel USCIB member feedback into policy deliberations and standard-setting processes at international organizations. Nguyen also serves as a co-Chair of USCIB’s Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In the interview, Nguyen indicates that technology and innovation can help corporate sustainability and companies use data and analysis to communicate actionable insights throughout their complex organizations. Such metrics will help advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which can be achieved by management systems and actions that companies take to become more sustainable in their operations and initiatives. By incorporating technology and innovation, companies are already implementing new practices and programs to advance the SDGs -- especially Goal 9 – Build Infrastructure, Foster Innovation. Nguyen notes that Bechtel relies on innovation to help achieve Goal 7 – Ensure Energy for All; Goal 8 – Promote Economic Growth & Decent Work; and Goal 12 – Ensure Sustainable Consumption & Production.

According to Nguyen, “sustainability is one of the biggest drivers of innovation today and into the future.” He goes on to express the significance of market and the public increasingly valuing and seeking out information on corporate sustainability performance. For Nguyen, technology and innovation help businesses function more efficiently across many sectors through sustainable methods, which will in turn help improve company reputation to customers and stakeholders. Sustainability challenges and business imperatives are opportunities for companies to align sustainability to risk management in a comprehensive way which will then help their bottom line and help business to achieve the SDGs.

Read the full interview with Tam Nguyen here.

Synergize, Harmonize and Coordinate

The Private Sector is Ready to Increase Engagement and Mobilize Resources to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

Norine Kennedy, vice president for energy and environment of USCIB, attended the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Financing for Development Forum in New York, NY which convened from May 22-25, 2017. On May 25, Kennedy delivered a statement on behalf of the business groups working with the FfD Business Sector Steering Committee about the importance of increasing the private sector’s role in mobilizing resources for sustainable development. 

Responding to numerous government proposals to involve business in SDG implementation, Kennedy stated that the private sector is vital to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), “whether directly or through innovation and investment, public-private partnerships, provision of expertise, services and equipment, linkages with SMEs and the creation of value chains involving new technologies and processes that are cleaner and greener.” Businesses have already taken great strides to implement changes for the SDGs that were referenced in the FfD Forum, including Goal 8 – Promote Economic Growth & Decent Work; Goal 9 – Build Infrastructure, Foster Innovation; and Goal 17 – Strengthen Means of Implementation. 

However, Kennedy notes that there does need to be an increase in business engagement. Kennedy encouraged the FfD Forum to utilize the private sector to achieve the SDGs in an array of areas covered by the Forum, including finance and investment, innovation, and public-private partnerships among other matters. Public-Private Partnerships are integral to achieving the SDGs by leveraging the private sector’s resources to assist with the development efforts of the UN Member States. In her presentation on one of the Forum’s expert panels, Dr. Sirimali Fernando, Chair of the National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka, mentioned three key actions – synergize, harmonize and coordinate – that were critical to advancing innovation, and Kennedy agreed that businesses see collaborative public-private actions as vital for the SDGs.

The Financing for Development forum was established to address the follow-up and review of the commitments of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) regarding the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It included special meetings with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). USCIB has been represented in the FfD Business Sector Steering Committee, led by the International Chamber of Commerce, since its inception.

Read the full speech from Norine Kennedy here.