Financial inclusion is vital in achieving inclusive sustainable growth and development as well as reducing poverty. Globally, about 2 billion people do not have a bank account but, Africa has been experiencing great advancements in financial inclusiveness. According to The World Bank, 34 percent of adults in sub-Saharan Africa had an account in 2014 compared to 24 percent in 2011. The African continent has been leading in the adoption of digital financial services as 12 percent of sub-Saharan Africans have a mobile money account, compared to 2 percent of the world population.

Important measures are been implemented to improve financial inclusion in Africa as a number of countries have committed to the Maya Declaration and the G20 financial inclusion action plan. Several countries have also developed national level financial inclusion plans.

In August, Brookings Institution released their 2016 Financial and Digital Inclusion Project report which explores 26 diverse emerging countries, globally, and their commitment towards improving financial inclusion. It uses four dimensions to evaluate these countries: country commitment, mobile capacity, regulatory environment, and the adoption of traditional and digital financial services. According to the report, here are Africa’s most financially inclusive countries:


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Credit: Brookings Institution

Kenya leads the way as the most financially inclusive country in Africa. With the success of M-PESA, Kenya has experienced tremendous growth in financial inclusion. The country is considered to have the most mature mobile money market in the world. Kenya has also experienced a 50 percent increase in financial inclusion over the last decade.

South Africa

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Credit: Brookings Institution

South Africa has an overall score of 78 percent in the 4th position out of the 26 countries examined. Although South Africa does not have an explicit financial inclusion strategy and is not a signatory of the Maya Declaration, the government has being highly committed to improving financial inclusion in the country. South Africa has a strong mobile capacity and high level of formal financial ownership, relative to other African countries. As at 2014, 70 percent of adults aged 15 and older in South Africa had an account with a financial institution or mobile money provider.


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Credit: Brookings Institution

Uganda shares the second position with South Africa with an overall score of 78 percent. It is ranked 5 out of the 26 countries. As part of its commitments to advancing financial inclusion, the Bank of Uganda developed a target under the Sasana Accord to increase the percentage of the adult population (age 16 and older) that is considered formally financially included from 54 percent as of 2013 to at least 70 percent by 2017.

The country also launched a National level Financial Inclusion Project in 2012, to increase access to financial services and empower the users of financial services to make rational decisions in their personal finances so as to contribute economic growth.


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Credit: Brookings Institution

Rwanda had an overall score of 76 percent ranking 8 out of the 26 countries. Rwanda has demonstrated a strong commitment to promoting financial inclusion. In 2006, the Rwanda Financial Sector Development Program (FSDP) was launched as a key component of implementing their Vision 2020 Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy of Rwanda. The FSDP has developed action plans for strengthening financial inclusion, financial education, and financial literacy

As of 2012, with the adoption of FSDP, access to financial services has grown from 47 percent to 72 percent of the population. The National Bank of Rwanda is a signatory to the Maya Declaration and Rwanda has experienced tremendous growth in the use of electronic and mobile payments recently.


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Credit: Brookings Institution

Nigeria ranked 10 out of the 26 countries featured. Nigeria has proven national-level commitments to advancing financial inclusion in the country. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is a signatory of the Maya Declaration. The country also launched a Nigerian Financial Inclusion Strategy as part of its Maya Declaration commitments.

In January 2016, the CBN, the Ministry of Finance and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation signed an agreement regarding a Digital Financial Inclusion Project in Nigeria. The project is aimed at increasing the level of financial inclusion in Nigeria and support the achievement of the 70 percent payments target by the year 2020, strengthening the payments system in order to accelerate the pace of digitalisation in the country, improving efficiency of public expenditure, reduce leakages and save money for vital development projects.

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