As world leaders converged on NYC this week, one of their most important tasks was adoption of a new set of sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Commenting on the impact that the year-2000 SDG goals have had, Bill Gates stated that the UNs focus on reducing childhood mortality has been even more important than peacekeeping.
From our perspective, one of the biggest additional impacts will be bringing the unbanked into the formal money economy.
The growing consensus is that while cashless payments will make developed economies more efficient, they can dramatically improve some of the poorest countries by bringing more people—especially the extremely poor “bottom billion”--into the global economy, reducing remittance fees, enfranchising more women, and spurring small business development. In some developing nations, these changes are already underway. Banking is a luxury in countries with low per-capita incomes, heavily rural populations, and underdeveloped infrastructures. For example, in Malawi, fewer than 30% of women and 40% of men hold traditional bank accounts. Now women in rural Malawi can open mobile savings accounts developed by the United Nations Capital Development Fund. Shopkeepers in far-flung parts of the country use mobile devices to process deposits and withdrawals, so these women can securely manage their money without incurring high bank fees.