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Malawi still lags on financial inclusion

FINANCIAL INCLUSION INDICATOR—Mobile money use

Betchani Tchereni

Many Malawians are still left out of the financial inclusion equation as findings of a recent study show that 69 percent of the population is financially excluded, about 40 years after Malawi rolled its financial inclusion agenda.

The survey, conducted by the University of Malawi (Unima)’s Department of Economics in conjunction with the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM), shows that only 31 percent of the surveyed population use banks and semi-formal institutions.

Of these, the majority (26.1 percent) uses credit while 17.5 percent of the respondents use saving products.

It further reveals that, contrary to expectations, only a very small proportion of the population (2.8 percent) uses mobile services and remittance services.

The survey attributes the lagged progress to lack of financial literacy, unemployment and financial capabilities.

“There is a need for the RBM in conjunction with financial institutions to intensify financial literacy campaigns. There is also a need for government to increase the country’s literacy levels as would, in turn, among others, lead to more people being included and hence reduce poverty,” suggests the survey.

The financial inclusion drive started in early 1980s by government through creation of strategies.

Economist from Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences Betchani Tchereni said the survey means that Malawi is losing a lot at both macro and micro economic level.

He added that, at the macro level, it means that the larger percent of not financially included individuals cannot make sound financial decisions that can propel the economy forward.

“At a micro level, it means that people are not able to conveniently manage their finances and time such as saving, investing and making financial transactions,” he said.

Financial inclusion serves as the right step towards any country’s development as it is one of the aspects of economic development.

Consumers Association of Malawi Executive Director Jon Kapito faulted the low rate on lack of awareness by financial institutions, high fees for services and products, unreliability of services and products and the attitude of service providers.

“RBM and commercial banks are mobilising people to keep money in the bank where the people get very little interest but when a consumer borrows money from the bank, they charge very huge interests, which should change if people are to be comfortable with banking,” he said.

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