In the countries of the North and the South, basic financial services to reach customers far from banks


Worldwide, 1.5 billion adults do not have access to an account. But very few live in developed countries. The “banking” rate in high-income countries peaks at 96% according to the World Bank. With 99%, France is no exception. A figure boosted by the legislator, who established in 1984 a right to an account allowing anyone who has been refused the opening of a bank account to turn to the Banque de France to obtain that an establishment be designated as ‘office.

But this access to the account does not guarantee the provision of financial services adapted to the most vulnerable populations, i.e. more than 4 million people, according to the Banque de France. This is why the latter set up a Banking Inclusion Observatory in 2013.

Among its prerogatives, check that the banks adapt their offer well to these fragile customers (systematic authorization card, capping of intervention commissions, etc.), improve the management of over-indebtedness but also promote microcredit.

Indeed, although the issue is different between the countries of the South and those of the North, the practices of the former can inspire the latter, as was the case for microfinance. It was while observing the Grameen Bank of Muhammad Yunus, in Bangladesh, that Maria Nowak had the idea of ​​founding the Association for the Right to Economic Initiative (ADIE) in France at the end of the 1990s, to finance business projects that cannot benefit from traditional financial circuits. It has since been emulated: in total, more than 70,000 microloans (both professional and personal) were disbursed in 2021, according to the Banque de France.

At the street corner

Even when the influence of developing countries is not so direct, the recipes for inclusive finance sometimes turn out to be very similar in the two hemispheres. Thus, parallels can be drawn between the supply of mobile money M-Pesa in a country like Kenya, and an initiative like Nickel in France. In Kenya, M-Pesa makes it possible to store and transfer money from a mobile account, money that can be converted into cash at a partner business, usually the local grocer. In France, Nickel offers an online account and a payment card that can be subscribed not at a bank, but at a tobacconist, again around the corner.

Like M-Pesa, Nickel therefore mainly appeals to a population with little access to banking services. “Among our 2.8 million customers, a third have a complicated relationship with the bank because they are prohibited from banking, in particular, says Marie Degrand-Guillaud, Deputy CEO of Nickel. Another third seeks to save money on bank charges, which on average exceed 215 euros per year. A final third simply wants a secondary account for specific needs. By addressing the entire population, we avoid the use of Nickel being stigmatising. »

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