The Financial Inclusion Global Initiative (FIGI) was a three-year program (2017-2021) implemented in partnership by the World Bank Group (WBG), the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructure (CPMI), and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support and accelerate the implementation of country-led reform actions to meet national financial inclusion targets, and ultimately the global ‘Universal Financial Access 2020’ goal.
FIGI funded national implementations in three countries—China, Egypt and Mexico; supported working groups to tackle three sets of outstanding challenges for reaching universal financial access: (1) electronic payment acceptance, (2) digital ID for financial services, and (3) security; and hosted three annual symposia to gather national authorities, the private sector, and the engaged public on relevant topics and to share emerging insights from the working groups and country programs.
Together these organizations galvanized the work of the CPMI-World Bank Group Task Force on the Payment Aspects of Financial Inclusion (PAFI), the BMGF’s Level One Project, and the ITU Focus Group – Digital Financial Services, to deliver implementation solutions, deep topical analyses and practical investigations, working toward the goal of Universal Financial Access by 2020.
Financial inclusion is a critical enabler for poverty reduction and inclusive growth. Access to transaction accounts opens up a pathway to broader financial inclusion, whereby people and firms can make financial transactions more efficiently and safely, access funds (whether payments, credit, savings, or other) invest in the future, and cope with economic shocks. Access to transaction accounts also enables participation in the digital economy, and is a critical building block for digital development too.
As the world still grapples with the COVID-19 crisis, the importance of digital financial services in providing secure, low-cost and contactless financial tools to individuals and businesses has become even more critical. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified urgency for digital financial services (DFS) to help reach underserved and vulnerable populations. This highlights the importance of our work at FIGI particularly during the pandemic, where the focus is on improving and accelerating drivers of DFS and support authorities to respond to respond to the crisis by taking measures such as speeding up COVID-19 related payments to firms and individuals, reaching remote populations, reducing the risks of cash, and enabling business continuity at a time of social distancing.