CBK deputy governor says financial inclusion helping fight poverty

Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) deputy governor Sheila M’mbijiwe says financial access has helped address poverty in the country with only Mauritius and South Africa having outdone Kenya in the inclusion.

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She said this is a cause for celebration as majority of Kenyans are now financially included with the country rated third on the continent. The access points include brick and mortar banks, agency banking and mobile money transfer outlets.

“We have 75 per cent financial inclusion which means 90 per cent of Kenyans are within three kilometres of a financial access point,” said Ms M’mbijiwe.

The deputy governor said the direct impact of the financial inclusion whose parameters are gauged by the ability of individuals to access basic banking services has seen significant drop in poverty among previously unbanked Kenyans.

However, she said despite the banking gains there is a need to address inequalities in the access to financial services.

“Going forward there are challenges that we need to look into. We need to look at the equity of financial inclusion. In the urban areas it is more successful than the rural areas and also women have far less access than men,” said Ms M’mbijiwe.

She spoke on the sidelines of a financial-inclusion themed conference being held in Nairobi bringing together a wide body of economic experts and financial regulators from around the world.

Speaking at the conference, former CBK governor Njuguna Ndung’u, under whose eight-year reign the regulator pave the way for the use of innovative financial technologies such as mobile money transfer service M-Pesa, said financial inclusion is a key policy instrument for tackling widespread poverty in developing countries.

A report released at the conference by the American think tank Centre for Global Development titled ‘Financial Regulations for Improving Financial Inclusion’ singled out regulation as a hindrance to deepening financial access.

“Poor regulation is one of the major obstacles to financial inclusion. Others include a lack of good infrastructure, weak institutions and poor cooperation and unstable economic and political conditions,” read part of the report findings.