While the recently launched Financial Inclusion strategy has been welcomed warmly by most stakeholders across the economy, it is worthy that we take a moment to imagine the task that lies ahead.

Access to financial products does not necessarily translate into use. Full financial inclusion requires not only the design of relevant financial products and services, but also client education that provides low-income customers with the knowledge and confidence to fully utilise such access in controlling and growing their assets. In recent years, “financial education”has been perceived as synonymous with “classroom education”. True and effective financial education can and should happen at any client interaction; that daily or weekly transaction provides an opportunity to reinforce basic information that can help the marginalised access, use, and benefit from a financial product. Clients should be bombarded with information that urges them to make good borrowing decisions, productively use borrowed funds, make regular savings and establish good repayment history. Uninformed access to financial products and services is arguably a driver of over-indebtedness and should not be allowed.

Full financial inclusion will also need to leverage on mobile financial services technology. Local service providers should be able to innovate and develop products and services that are affordable to even the marginalised and the poorest. More innovation will be required in striking a balance between developing an efficient mobile financial services platform and pricing it in a manner that is sustainable to both the service provider and the client. It is indeed true that mobile money transfers are convenient but for poor people convenience is a luxury, their opportunity cost of time is fairly low and they will gladly endure the pain of travelling to make a payment than send it conveniently but in a seemingly expensive way. Once again, client education will be required.

All stakeholders are therefore urged to play their part, as the bible says, “the harvest is plenty but the labourers are few.” Stand up and be counted!