Financial inclusion challenge
According to World Bank estimates, as many as 86 per cent of the people in the Middle East and North Africa have no access to a bank account. Many of these are refugees fleeing conflict or natural disaster; and others are just the “unbanked” parts of the population.
For some, it’s simply the distance to the nearest branch or the cost of transportation that limits their access; or perhaps, as is the case in some war-torn countries, they simply don't have access to banking infrastructure at all. In other cases, such as with respect to women, there may be cultural barriers inhibiting access; or, as with refugee communities, it may be difficult for them to meet the criteria that banks may require around identity or credit history. This may be due to central bank regulations, documentation requirements, or other restrictions.
The bottom line is there is a need to reimagine banking for refugees and unbanked so as to accelerate their access to key banking services – whether deposit-taking, micro-lending, remittances, or more. This makes good sense for humanitarian reasons; but should also make financial sense for banks.
This challenge is to develop tools to better offer banking services and products in a cost-effective way, with or without the need for a traditional bank account. These tools should address the challenges systemic to unbanked and refugee populations around identity, KYC, and credit history; and could facilitate a broad range of financial services, including cash disbursement and cashless transfers, payments, small business loans, personal loans or other financial services. User experience should be a key consideration in the development of the tool: particularly considering the background and education of the target users.