MICROFINANCE PUBLICATION ROUND-UP: Alternative Financing in Africa, Middle East; Interoperability of Digital Financial Systems; Financial Inclusion in Kerala, India

“The Africa and Middle East Alternative Finance Benchmarking Report”; by The Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) and Energy4Impact; published by CCAF; February 2017; 64 pages; available at https://www.scribd.com/document/338995486/CCAF-Africa-and-Middle-East-Alternative-Finance-Report-2017#download&from_embed/

This report focuses on assessing the types and prevalence of alternative financing in Africa and the Middle East. The authors consider equity crowdfunding, online microfinancing and peer-to-peer lending. Equity crowdfunding and online microfinancing were more prevalent in the geographical locations reviewed than in other markets, including the Americas, Europe and the remainder of Asia, where peer-to-peer lending dominated. The authors estimate that approximately USD 475 million was made available in Africa and the Middle East via alternative financing methods between 2013 and 2015, with Israel accounting for USD 125 million of this total. The authors conclude that alternative finance as a whole grew more slowly in Africa and the Middle East than in other parts of the world as the development of the market was in its early stages. In addition, they discuss the assessed regions’ alternative payment systems, regulations, crowdfunding for renewable energy, Islamic alternative finance and rates of women’s participation in these activities.

“Digital Finance Interoperability & Financial Inclusion: A 20-Country Scan”; by Pablo Garcia Arabehety, Gregory Chen, William Cook and Claudia McKay; published by CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor); December 2016; 16 pages, available at http://www.cgap.org/sites/default/files/interoperability.pdf

Using data from 20 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East, the authors of this study review the status of interoperability, which allows a user of “a digital financial service account to make specific kinds of transactions across two or more providers”[3]. As the availability of interoperable payment platforms makes it easier and presumably more affordable for people to transfer and receive payments, the authors argue that these platforms will increase financial inclusion.

The authors identify three modes of interoperability among service providers: bilateral agreements, multilateral agreements and “third-party solutions that connect providers” to one another. The study finds that interoperability is generally available in the assessed markets, but progress remains slow. Out of the 20 countries considered: (1) six pursued a centrally planned approach to interoperability; (2) non-bank payment providers made joint efforts to achieve interoperability in four; and (3) multiple approaches were used simultaneously in ten countries.

“Report on State of Financial Inclusion in Kerala”; by Dr. Tara Nair; published by the Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX); September 2016; 32 pages; available at https://www.themix.org/sites/default/files/publications/report_on_state_of_financial_inclusion_in_kerala.pdf

Although government data indicates that all households in the Indian state of Kerala had bank accounts as of 2014, resulting in “comprehensive financial inclusion,”[7] Dr. Nair challenges the premise that bank account ownership is a sufficient metric of financial inclusion. The author analyzes the local financial services market based on “institution type, the market share of different types of banks, the spread of ATMs and bank branches, and the coverage ratio of all financial service providers.”[7] She also considers social factors such as “low rates of poverty and the achievements in education and health sectors” and “indigenous” financial services such as “private moneylenders, hundi merchants and chit funds.”[7]

Dr. Nair concludes that banking services in Kerala focus mostly on savings, while access to credit is substantially less prevalent. Also, the range of available types of financial services and products varies significantly by location, as do access rates among populations residing in different parts of the state.

By Alíz Crowley, Research Associate

Sources and Additional Information:

[1] Crowdfund Insider: Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance Publishes Africa & Middle East Alternative Finance Report

[2] Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF): Digital Finance Interoperability & Financial Inclusion: A 20-Country Scan

[3] CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor): Digital Finance Interoperability & Financial Inclusion: A 20-Country Scan, Assessing the state of interoperable payment systems in select markets around the world

[4] CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor): Digital Finance Interoperability & Financial Inclusion: A 20-Country Scan

[5] MicroCapital Universe Profile: CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor)

[6] Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) Market, Report on State of Financial Inclusion in Kerala, Summary

[7] Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) Market, Report on State of Financial Inclusion in Kerala

[8] Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) Market, India-Kerala – Key Findings

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