Financial inclusion is driving better access to health and education across the Middle East and Africa, according to a new white paper from Mastercard.
The study, Financial Inclusion+ — Connecting People to Finance, Health, and Education, explores how health, education, digital, and financial inclusion are all intertwined to unlock greater prosperity and well-being for communities across the region.
It reveals that access to finance, healthcare, and education has become even more of a challenge over the past two years, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a result of movement restrictions and lockdowns. This has placed a greater need for digitally delivered financial inclusion, and for using this as a platform to distribute health and education services to the masses.
Mastercard aims to play a leading role in addressing financial inclusion, with a previous goal to bring 500 million excluded individuals into the digital economy — a goal that was achieved in 2020 — and then raised during the height of the pandemic with a new pledge to include 500 million more — making a total of 1 billion people by 2025.
“It is our belief that we can enhance financial and digital inclusion using a multi-stakeholder approach that brings together governments, financial institutions, regulators, mobile network operators, equipment manufacturers, and education and health service providers united by a common purpose. This, we believe, will also drive increasing inclusion in the health and education spaces,” said Umar Hashmi, vice president, global product and engineering, Mastercard.
According to the Mastercard MEA Inclusion Survey 2021 on which the white paper is based, 83 percent of respondents across the region say they own a smartphone, with Jordan being the highest (89 percent) and Morocco lowest (75 percent). More than 41 percent say they acquired a new smart device in 2020-2021, as more health and education services were forced online due to the pandemic — 56 percent say they are connected digitally to an education service provider.
Just over half (55 percent) say they use digital mediums to make financial transactions, and 43 percent say they are connected digitally to a health service provider, with Kenya and Nigeria coming in at 55 percent and Iraq at 11 percent.
The white paper concludes that inclusion into the financial mainstream, which also promotes access to effective health and education services, can only be enhanced by the fundamental or infrastructural availability of digitization and digital devices that can access the online world.