Is Financial Inclusion a Myth?

What if Financial Inclusion is a myth that we have created in our jaded view of what we feel is good for the world’s poor but, does not address their needs or that they do not even need? What if the real problem is that the worlds poor don’t trust these help and they see it as a means of control by the government who want information about everyone for taxation and further subjugation?

Financial Inclusion used to be a hot buzz word, and even years after, it’s still hot enough to warm a pot of coffee. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to understand it from a viable business model.

Nevertheless, from an altruistic angle, it makes sense to me. It is not out of place for the haves to pay for the transactions of the have-nots so they could bring them to modern living. The World Bank says “Financial Inclusion is a key enabler to reducing poverty and boosting prosperity.”

CGAP believes that Financial Inclusion is about migrating the 2 Billion working-age adults that don’t have accounts with licensed financial institutions to the formal economy where, regardless of income levels, they can have access to savings accounts, insurance, and other financial services needed to transform their lives.

But recently even that understanding of mine has been shaken so profoundly I’m asking myself if Financial Inclusion isn’t a scam.

Before you lob a hand grenade at me, hear me out.

I recently had a conversation that underscored this new position of the possibility that Financial Inclusion could be a scam. Someone asked a poignant question in a group chat – do the financially excluded really want to be financially included? If yes, do they want to be financially included in the form that is being shoved down their throats? That question has been nagging me ever since. I took the liberty to ask a few “financially excluded” people around me and their responses were shocking. They didn’t care for digital payments, wallets, bank, Bitcoin, etc. All they want is real hard cash which they can spend and treasure.

Beyond receiving money from the cities, many of their friends in the villages don’t care about money transfers and other fancy digital thingamajigs.

It is possible I’m totally wrong in all these. It is also possible that this could be a beautiful scam that sounds pretty good to our helpful alter egos.

Financial Inclusion has many challenges – education, infrastructure, cost of transactions, KYC. But something that struck me is that when the need hits the sweet spot, some of these things do catch on. For example, despite some bit of literacy requirement, elitism and cost associated with mobile phones, the usage caught on to almost everyone that only those in the deepest rock caves in Nigeria don’t have them. The numbers on NCC website speak for themselves.

As much as the internet is a luxury in Nigeria, almost everyone is on Whatsapp (it cost money to have data), and there are more Facebook active monthly users than active monthly bank accounts.

Do you think Financial Inclusion is a scam?

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