The SADC Financial Inclusion programme at FinMark Trust (FMT) has been compiling monitoring information on financial inclusion indicators in selected SADC countries since 2017. This activity is in partnership with the UNCDF, as part of the SADC Making Access Possible (MAP) programme, which supports financial inclusion through a process of evidence-based country diagnostics leading to the development of national financial inclusion roadmaps that identify drivers of financial inclusion and recommended action.
The MAP country implementation is a key pillar of the SADC Financial Inclusion strategy, implemented with the SADC Secretariat and the SADC Committee for Central Bank Governors. This regional approach has paid dividends over the last year with a number of regional initiatives being implemented and providing downward pressure for implementation at country level. In turn, country priorities have been escalated into regional-wide programmes.
The data collected allows for comparison across countries based on measurement dimensions such access, uptake, usage, cost to client, and the level at which financial inclusion is institutionalised as a national strategy. In 2018/2019, the second iteration of the data compilation includes Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
However, there were some limitations and challenges which are reflected in the level of completeness and breadth of the data presented. The enactment of Financial Inclusion strategies by regulators and policymakers is yet to translate to financial service providers submitting the necessary data to populate M&E indicators. In addition, disaggregated data on gender and urban/rural breakdown was a challenge to obtain.
The findings show that mobile money is driving the level of formal financial inclusion. This is evident through the increases in the mobile money agent networks, although information on the level of dormancy of these agents was unavailable. A move towards branchless banking models is also observed from the findings as bank branches per 100,000 adults seem to be reducing across the countries under review in the 2018/2019 report. The number of registered and active mobile money users has also been increasing since 2017. To this end, FMT has been advocating for the adoption of paying interest on mobile money balances in an attempt to encourage and promote savings. Thus far three of the five of countries included in the report have adopted regulations that allow for the payment of interest to mobile wallet holders.
On the other hand, mobile money has only succeeded in driving person to person payments so there is still ground to be covered to increase person-to-business payments and other use cases.
Compared to other regions in the world, the South African to SADC remittances corridor has historically been one of the most expensive in the world. The 2019 monitoring report shows that there has been a reduction in the cost of remittances from South Africa to the region with Lesotho having a bank-retailer model which cost 2.4% for a remitted value of R850. This has been cited as one of the lowest remittances’ products in the world.
All the countries under review for the second iteration of SADC FI M&E have a national financial inclusion strategy which is being implemented through a Central Bank or Ministry of Finance. The capacity of these institutions to capture the necessary data to inform monitoring and evaluation needs so to be improved and FMT and its partners will be building this capacity to ensure that the necessary evidence is available to inform the implementation of financial inclusion in the region.