ZIMBABWE is making satisfactory progress towards meeting its financial inclusion targets, especially in light of the achieved milestones under the National Financial Inclusion Strategy 1 (NFIS 1) launched in 2014, Finmark Trust, which carried out the first survey to gauge the level of financial coverage, said.
FinMark recently concluded the 2022 FinScope Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) and Consumer surveys, whose findings established the country had made significant strides on financial inclusion.
The study showed that significantly more adults had become financially included compared to 2014 and this encompassed areas straddling formal financial products and services.
National financial inclusion increased to 88 percent in 2022 from 77 percent in 2014, meaning about 6, 2 million adults out of a total of 7 million adult in Zimbabwe are now financially included.
Financial inclusion is defined as the availability and equality of opportunities to access financial services.
It refers to a process by which individuals and businesses can access appropriate, affordable, and timely financial products and services.
According to the survey, initiatives instituted by authorities through the NFIS 1 constricted the financial exclusion gap amongst adults to 12 percent in 2022.
This represents a huge positive development since the 2014 FinScope consumer survey, which discovered that 23 percent of Zimbabweans were financially excluded at the time.
FinScope (2022) is the third cycle of such surveys, with the previous ones having been conducted in 2011 and 2014 while the MSME survey after the first one conducted in 2012.
The latest financial inclusion survey established that 46 percent of the adult population is now formally accessing banking services, a 16 percent growth from 30 percent eight years ago, while 84 percent of Zimbabwean adults are now formally served, a notable 14 percent growth from 2014 figures.
“We already see an economy and financial sector that is fast-paced, moving rather at an unbelievable rate with direct products and services being consumed both in the business and consumer space,” said Mr Obert Maposa, senior data and analytics specialist at Finmark Trust.
He said this at the official launch of the 2022 FinScope MSME and consumer survey results at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) on Tuesday.
The 2022 survey also discovered that the Zimbabwean economy was now dominated largely by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which now contribute up to US$8,6 billion (60 percent) to gross domestic product.
Formally served MSMEs increased to 95 percent in 2022 from 18 percent in 2012, while the exclusion gap in the sector drastically reduced to three percent from 43 percent over the eight-year period.
RBZ Deputy Governor, Dr Jesimeni Chipikasaid the notable improvement was buttressed by the central bank’s inventiveness ranging from the empowerment seed funds set up by the bank, promotion of know-your-customer (KYC) requirements, financial literacy programmes and the digitisation drive.
“The message we must draw from the Zimbabwe 2022 MSME and consumer FinScope survey results is clear as highlighted in the NFIS 2, that as a country, we have made significant progress in terms of access to finance, and going forward, we are riding on the success of NFIS 1 to improve on usage of quality financial services on a sustainable basis by all Zimbabweans,” said Dr Chipika.
Securities and Exchange Commission of Zimbabwe (SecZim), head of investor education, Farai Mpofu said it was time to modify financial sector offerings to match the demands of the obtaining demographics.
“As capital markets regulator, primarily going through our business in the modern and empowered Zimbabwe, it is time to say if the bulk of the population is operating in the SME space, like what the statistics have been spelled out, we too as a traditional offering have to ensure that our infrastructure becomes SME facing and the bulk of population facing so that they can take advantage of that,” she said.
The RBZ launched NFIS1 in 2014, targeting the underserved and marginalised segments of the population.
The development and implementation of NFIS 1 aimed at ensuring the existence of an inclusive financial sector with broadened access to and use of financial services by all with the view of engendering social and economic development.
According to the apex bank, financial inclusion will continue to be a policy priority to build resilient systems to make the post-pandemic recovery more inclusive and sustainable.