World Economic Forum – Promoting Global Financial Inclusion


The project catalyzes public-private collective action and brings together partners to play a leading role in identifying, shaping and seizing the highest potential opportunities to accelerate progress towards full digital financial inclusion. Over two billion people worldwide are currently financially excluded and around 200-250 million small-to-medium sized enterprises underserved, resulting in poverty and insecurity, and lost economic growth and employment.

The project includes a growing portfolio of countries, where each partnership has tailored national objectives, governance and work plans driving various specific initiatives to result in social and commercial impact from digital financial inclusion. In-country projects have included India, Indonesia, Mexico, Colombia and Rwanda.

For whom

Decision makers
Private sector
Business Associations
Policy makers

Services offered

Building skills

Through in-country workshops, knowledge-sharing events and publications

Capacity Building

Through in-country workshops, knowledge-sharing events and publications

Policy Support

Component of in-country projects; collaborations with Central Banks, Ministries of Finance and Ministries of ICT

Support to institutions

Through in-country workshops, knowledge-sharing events and publications


Development of reports on various topics related to digital payments and financial inclusion

Policy dialogue

Component of in-country projects; collaborations with Central Banks, Ministries of Finance and Ministries of ICT


International organizations, government entities, private sector
  • Accion
  • Bank Mandiri
  • Bank of America
  • Banorte
  • Barclays Africa Group
  • Better Than Cash Alliance
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • BRAC
  • Child and Youth Finance International
  • Citi
  • Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)
  • Credit Suisse
  • FIS
  • ICICI Bank
  • Interbank
  • Intermedia
  • International Finance Corporation
  • International Labor Organization (ILO)
  • Janaagraha
  • Mastercard
  • Mercy Corps
  • Old Mutual
  • Paypal
  • PlaNet Finance
  • Plan International
  • Prudential
  • SAP
  • S&P Global
  • Standard Chartered Bank
  • Swiss Re
  • Tata Consultancy Services
  • Tata Consultancy Services
  • Telenor Group
  • UBS
  • United Nations
  • United Way Worldwide
  • Visa
  • Western Union
  • Women’s World Banking
  • World Bank Group
  • Zurich Insurance Group

Meet the beneficiaries

Helping companies and governments understand the barriers and incentives for SMEs to pay electronically

A recollection of recommendations and key takeaways from the report on «Innovation in Electronic Payment Adoption: The case of small retailers», World Economic Forum and World Bank Group, 2016


According World Bank global market sizing analysis, expanding merchant payments represents a $19 trillion business opportunity.  However, to seize this opportunity, key obstacles must be overcome:

5 key recommendations to overcome these barriers and facilitate the adoption of merchant payment solutions

Adopting combined solutions
Small retailers are more likely to adopt combined solutions that help manage and grow their business, in addition to the ability to pay electronically.

Creating new non-card payment models
Innovators are eschewing non-card infrastructure in many developing markets to create new payment models for reaching low-income retailers.

Creating solutions with value-added services
As more retailers adopt digital consumer technologies for personal and business use, innovative providers are using the resulting data trails to supply greater value-added services back to those retailers.

Use suppliers’ financial incentives
Suppliers have financial incentives and operational capabilities to encourage retailers to pay them electronically.

Partnering with non-traditional payment actors is essential to reach small retailers at the “last mile”.

Building evidence to identify the value of the digital gap

Key findings from the report «Cash vs. Electronic Payments in Small Retailing Estimating the Global Size», World Economic Forum, 2016

The study aims to identify the value of cash transactions that could be migrated to electronic payments—in retail payments globally with a focus on formal micro, small and medium retailers (MSMRs), and in doing so, inform the analysis and recommendations of the stocktaking study.

$ 34 trillion per year

is the amount of made and accepted payments by MSMEs

$ 15 trillion

are electronic payments

$ 2 trillion

is the total value of B2P retail payments worldwide by MSMEs, 50% of which are made electronically

$ 19 trillion

are paper payments (cash & checks)

To foster the financial inclusion agenda, the World Economic Forum also leads and explores innovative and break-through initiatives including cash-based humanitarian aid and a successful multi-stakeholder partnership effort to ensure cash-fluidity in times of crisis.

To know more

Success Stories
A recollection of best practices from in-country case studies in e-services adoption by small retailers

Throughout the recent research studies and publications, World Economic Forum has been successfully recollecting and documenting e-payment and e-banking solutions helping SMEs to establish and conduct their businesses. Among the best practices, we selected below a few examples related to the developing and least developed countries.

Absa Bank in South Africa: cardless virtual payment system for SMEs – as a combined solution that help manage and grow SMEs business.

ABSA has Enterprise Development Centres in 8 provinces where SMMEs can walk in and get assistance. One can book an appointment through the Small Business Support Centre during SMME-friendly hours.

Virtual Pay’s system is one of the SMEs oriented services. It makes controlling operational costs and streamlining administration a lot easier for small businesses. Virtual Pay is a cardless virtual payment system at the heart of which is just one single business account, thus replacing multiple corporate expense and travel and entertainment cards. The accounts become transaction based and no longer linked to a specific person or department.

Enabling mobile payments for small merchants: Safaricom Lipa Na M-PESA solutions

Following M-PESA’s success with its Person to Person money transfer service by phone, Safaricom signs up small merchants to enable its customers to pay with mobile money.

Micro and small retailers



merchants reached 

Boosting merchant adoption of electronic payments:
Tienda Pago short-term working capital credit 

Tienda Pago provides short-term (1-2 weeks) working capital credit to small retailers to pay suppliers, whom the company signs up to its platform.


Tienda Pago launch


merchants reached

Micro and small retailers



merchants in each Venezuela and Peru