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Financial Inclusion in Bangladesh 10 facts worth knowing

Bangladesh is both an inspiration and a challenge for policymakers and development practitioners. The country has been leading the way in financial inclusion, mainly through mobile financial services and alternate banking channels, such as agent banking.

While Bangladesh has made significant progress in accelerating financial inclusion, challenges remain on both the access and usage fronts. The demand for technological disruption in the financial sector is all the more acute, given that around 50% of Bangladeshis still remain unbanked.

Here are ten key facts about the current state of financial inclusion in Bangladesh

1. Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries, with approximately 164 million people living within a relatively small landmass.

Source: GSMA Bangladesh Report (2018), Global Findex Database (2017)

2. The rapid growth of Digital Financial Services (DFS) is driven by Mobile Financial Services (MFS) and agent banking.

With 18 companies that offer mobile money services and 17 banks that offer agent banking, nearly 92% of the population now lives within 5 kilometers of a financial sector access point.

Source: Global Findex Database (2017), Bangladesh Bank, FII Tracker Survey

3. Bangladesh now accounts for more than 8% of the total mobile money accounts worldwide.

Source: Country Focus Note: Bangladesh by MicroSave Consulting (MSC)

4. While there is access to different financial service channels, not everyone utilizes them.

  • Only 50% of the population has formal financial accounts

Source: Global Findex Database (2017)

5. In fact, there is a wide gender disparity in the utilization of financial services.

  • 64% of the unbanked in Bangladesh comprise women

Source: Global Findex Database (2017)

6. Less than 25% of the population saves money, of which only 8% saves at a formal financial institution.

Source: Country Focus Note: Bangladesh by MicroSave Consulting (MSC)

7. Bangladesh ranks at 85 out of 137 globally in terms of the ease of access to loans.

  • Less than 50% of the population avails credit, of which less than 20% avails credit from formal financial institutions

Source: Country Focus Note: Bangladesh by MicroSave Consulting (MSC)

8. Digital financial services hold an immense prospect for greater financial inclusion and expansion of basic services to the unbanked. Yet barriers remain that must be overcome.

DFS is a powerful channel for making financial services reachable to the poor at lower cost and lower risk. It is undoubtedly a worthy goal, but industry stakeholders must solve the following barriers to achieve it:

  • There is a strong preference for cash and a lack of awareness of DFS and a lack of trust in it.
  • Complex processes and user interfaces coupled with a limited trust in and understanding of technology for financial services has marred the uptake and regular use of DFS among low- and moderate-income customers.

Source: Country Focus Note: Bangladesh by MicroSave Consulting (MSC)

9. The opportunities to access financial services are more common than ever.

  • 85 million (70%) unique mobile subscribers in Bangladesh
  • 90 million (75%) active Internet connections in Bangladesh

By utilizing the high percentage of Internet users and mobile subscribers, DFS players can use technology to offer innovative financial services to the last-mile customers.

Source: GSMA Bangladesh Report (2018), Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission

10. The road ahead: Pursuing financial inclusion going forward

While basic access to banking services and products remains a challenge in Bangladesh, the government has shown firm commitment through conducive policies that aim to advance financial inclusion.

The Bangladesh Bank and the Finance Ministry have already taken an initiative to develop a complete draft of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) for Bangladesh.

100% of the country’s people will be financially included by 2024!

Source: Dhaka Tribune

These statistics show that Bangladesh represents an ideal environment for the expansion of DFS.

The rise of mobile phones, mobile banking, and alternate banking channels like agent banking have reformed the landscape notably to offer a comprehensive range of new opportunities.

ABOUT the I3 PROGRAM

The i3 program stands for Innovate, Implement, and Impact. It aims to bring meaningful financial inclusion in the country. This 36-month program receives support from the MetLife Foundation and shares a vision that everyone needs access to the right financial tools to achieve their goals. The i3 program will work closely with implementation partners to improve the financial health of the low- and moderate-income (LMI) segments through interventions at both demand- and supply-sides.

MSC (MicroSave Consulting) has been implementing the i3 program in Bangladesh with the support, cooperation, and partnership of leading financial service providers and new-age FinTechs in Bangladesh.

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