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Article|McKinsey Quarterly

Counting the world’s unbanked

Fully 2.5 billion of the world’s adults don’t use banks or microfinance institutions to save or borrow money, but unserved doesn’t mean unservable.

March 2010 | byAlberto Chaia, Tony Goland, and Robert Schiff

Fully 2.5 billion of the world’s adults don’t use formal banks or semiformal microfinance institutions to save or borrow money, our research finds. Nearly 2.2 billion of these unserved adults live in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Unserved, however, does not mean unservable. The microfinance movement, for example, has long helped expand credit use among the world’s poor—reaching more than 150 million clients in 2008 alone.1 Similarly, we find that of the approximately 1.2 billion adults in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East who use formal or semiformal credit or savings products, about 800 million live on less than $5 a day (Exhibit 1). Large unserved populations represent opportunities for institutions that are able to offer an innovative range of high-quality, affordable financial products and services. Moreover, with the right financial education and support to make good choices, lower-income consumers will benefit from credit, savings, insurance, and payments products that help them invest in economic opportunities, better manage their money, reduce risks, and plan for the future.

Exhibit 1

The unbanked are not unservable

Serving adults who live on less than $5 a day is not only possible at scale—to a large degree, it is already happening.

Expand the map (Exhibit 2) to see the financially unserved population by region.

Exhibit 2

Counting the world’s unbanked

Nearly 2.2 billion financially unserved adults live in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Read the full report, Half the World is Unbanked, on McKinsey’s Social Sector page.

About the authors

Alberto Chaia is a principal in McKinsey’s Mexico City office, Tony Goland is a director in the Washington, DC, office, and Robert Schiff is a consultant in the New York office.

Source: McKinsey research conducted in partnership with the Financial Access Initiative (a consortium of researchers at New York University, Harvard, Yale, and Innovations for Poverty Action); we relied on financial usage data from Patrick Honohan, “Cross-country variation in household access to financial services,” Journal of Banking & Finance, 2008, Volume 32, Number 11, pp. 2493–500.

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