Ideas & Updates

Davos Shines a Light on Financial Inclusion Via Electronic Payments

World Economic Forum recognises electronic payments as a driver for financial inclusion

World Economic Fourm Logo
When I boarded the plane heading to Davos for my first time at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting, I was excited for the week ahead and unsure what to expect. While I was there, I was impressed by the attention paid to financial inclusion and the recognition that electronic payments can drive a smarter, more transparent and more inclusive economy. With half of all adults around the world lacking something as simple as a bank account, there is agreement that something must be done.

Throughout the week, several public and private programmes managed to touch on the topic of financial inclusion in one way, shape or form. For example, a panel discussing the future of the African continent concluded that growth and prosperity was tied to the delivery of greater financial inclusion. Later in the week, a panel on “Money and Markets in a Hyper-connected World”, which included MasterCard’s CEO, Ajay Banga, explored how innovations in payments technology can open doors of economic opportunity for those currently excluded and drive financial inclusion. And, at the tail end of the meeting, 60+ business and government leaders met to explore pathways to greater access and usage of financial tools and the prospects of electronic payments to enable that bridge. CGAP shared a key finding of that meeting – leadership from both the public and private sector is necessary to achieve the desired result of increased inclusion.

Davos Shines a Light on Financial Inclusion Via Electronic Payments

Ajay Banga, MasterCard President and CEO, and Neal Keny-Guyer, Mercy Corps CEO

But, the moment that stuck with me the most was a presentation on the public’s trust in business, government, NGOs and the media. Perceptions around the world are shifting, and 84% of respondents now believe that business can pursue its self-interest while doing good work for society. In fact, the overarching finding from the research is that business now has an opportunity to lead the debate for positive societal change.

I look at MasterCard’s partnerships with Mercy Corps (whose CEO, Neal Keny Guyer, provided a compelling rationale for why Davos matters), the World Food Programme and other development organizations where we are starting to leverage electronic payments technology to deliver humanitarian aid in new, innovative and beneficial ways. I think about the public-private partnerships that leverage electronic payment technology to advance financial inclusion with governments from Nigeria to the United States. Most of all, I reflect on the fact that electronic payments are one of the greatest tools we have to advance economic and social development around the world.

All of these reinforce my resolve that MasterCard is on the right path. But it also highlights the important work we have ahead through collaborations like the Better than Cash Alliance. If Davos is any bellwether for the appetite among governments, the private sector and non-profits to unite on an issue, we are certainly heading in the right direction. But that in no way gives us cause to take our foot off the gas. In fact, we should press the gas more.