Financial inclusion programmes in low‐ and middle‐income countries

Added July 2, 2020

Citation: Duvendack M, Mader P. Impact of financial inclusion in low‐ and middle‐income countries: A systematic review of reviews. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2019; 15:e1012.

What is this? During the COVID-19 pandemic, job losses due to business closures has disproportionately affected low-income families and less-skilled workers. Existing research on financial inclusion programmes, which seek to increase access to financial services such as credit, savings, insurance and money transfers and thereby allow poor and low‐income households in low‐ and middle‐income countries to enhance their welfare, grasp opportunities, mitigate shocks, and ultimately escape poverty might provide useful information for policy makers.

In this Campbell systematic review, the authors searched for systematic reviews of financial inclusion programmes in low‐ and middle‐income countries. They did not restrict their searches by language of publication but searched for articles published from 2010 to December 2018. They included 11 systematic reviews, many of which raised concerns about the low quality of the studies they included.

What was found: Impacts of financial inclusion programmes were more likely to be positive than negative, but the effects varied, were often mixed, and appeared not to be transformative in scope or scale.

Overall, the effects of financial services on core economic poverty indicators such as incomes, assets or spending, and on health status and other social outcomes, are small and inconsistent and there is no evidence for meaningful behaviour-change outcomes leading to further positive effects.

The effects of financial services on women’s empowerment appear to be generally positive, but they depend upon programme features which are often only peripheral or unrelated to the financial service itself (such as education about rights), cultural and geographical context, and what aspects of empowerment are considered.

Accessing savings opportunities appears to have small but much more consistently positive effects for poor people, and bears fewer downside risks for clients than credit.


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