Colombia IPV study
February 14, 2022

By Alan Gelb, Tanvi Jaluka, and Rafe Mazer


In late 2021, IPA brought together hundreds of academics from across the globe to discuss new research and emerging issues related to financial inclusion at its Annual Researcher Gathering. These studies suggest that research on financial inclusion is shifting from basic questions around increasing financial access to improving the design and maximizing the economic and social benefits of formal financial services. IPA is integrating these questions into our research agenda for 2022, and we are excited to share new...

Photo: USAID Digital Development
February 08, 2022

    Photo: USAID Digital Development

Sheila, who lives in Bacoor, a town close to Manila, in the Philippines, received an SMS notification that she is qualified to receive the second tranche of her COVID-19 emergency subsidy. She traveled to the nearby pawnshop, presented the SMS and her ID, and received Php 5,000 (about US$100) in cash. She was happy with the short wait time, remembering that she had to queue for hours in the crowded barangay (or community) hall to receive the first tranche a few months ago.

However, what Sheila...

Photo: Will Boase
January 19, 2022

Photo: Will Boase

Ask a taxi driver in Kampala if you can pay your fare with mobile money and you’ll likely be told: yes—but only if you cover the fee to withdraw the money to cash. Despite the benefits of mobile money, many still choose to use cash, at least in part because of the high cost of mobile money transactions. Economics 101 tells us price and demand are closely linked, and evidence suggests this relationship is particularly strong for mobile money. For example, when Rwandan telcos made transactions free in early 2020, mobile money transfers...

mobile banking.jpg
Brian Mwesigwa
December 16, 2021


How much does it cost to send money to a friend on your phone? In the United States, you can send money to friends and family using PayPal for free. In Uganda, you can use MTN’s MoMo to send 50,000 shillings for 600 shillings. In Bangladesh, sending 1,000 takas will normally cost 5 taka. Visit the home page of each provider and you’ll find a direct link to a webpage that clearly states transaction fees. Pricing transparency is about more than listing fees on a website, but easy access to pricing information is an important minimum standard.

How much does it cost to send money...

Value Disbursed by Month
December 13, 2021

By William Blackmon, Rafe Mazer, Ninette Mwarania, and Daniel Putman

The Central Bank of Kenya’s Banking Sector Innovation Survey indicated that in 2020 79% of all banks and 72% of all microfinance institutions had introduced new financial technology (FinTech) products to the market. Continued growth and new entrants signify a market with low barriers to entry and demonstrate the innovation opportunities available in Kenya’s financial sector. However, even with easy market entry, competition and consumer welfare concerns remain for digital credit that urgently need to be...

Media Coverage
December 01, 2021

The news outlet Nation reports on an IPA study with the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) and Financial Sector Deepening (FSD-Kenya) on barriers to digital credit such as loan pricing.

Digital financial service in Indonesia
November 15, 2021

Photo credit: UNSGSA/Oktobernardi Salam

Imagine receiving your wages or a cash transfer directly into your bank account, but not being able to then transfer part of that money to your husband to pay for groceries, even though he lives under the same roof because his account is with a different bank. Imagine then not being able to use a debit card or mobile app to pay for gas, even though the station accepts digital payments because the gas station owner uses still a different bank. It’s no wonder that millions of people in this very situation would find...

IPA Logo
Press Release
October 06, 2021

October 2021. JAKARTA, INDONESIA — A new survey from Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) in Indonesia shows that despite ambitions for growth, women-owned micro, small, and medium enterprises face significant barriers in accessing financial services, especially credit.

Researchers conducted phone surveys of 500 women entrepreneurs in North Sulawesi and South Sumatra from April—May 2021. Businesses were identified through the 2016 Economic Census and filtered based on their “growth potential.” Researchers used criteria from MCC to identify entrepreneurs operating in high-growth...

Digital loan.png
September 30, 2021

Digital credit has transformed access to finance for hundreds of millions of consumers across the world. Through this innovation in loan delivery—characterized as “instant, automated, and remote”—people can now get loans over their phones in mere minutes. This has expanded financial access in ways never previously possible but has also led to concerns regarding aggressive marketing, high prices, and consumer risks of debt stress, such as in IPA’s recent analysis of digital credit transaction data in Kenya.

Given the potential to expand access to formal financial services digital...

Media Coverage
August 31, 2021

Zambia's news24 cites IPAs RECOVR survey of economic conditions in the country in coverage of factors affecting voters there.

Media Coverage
July 30, 2021

The Free Press Journal reports on a study providing women in Madhya Pradesh with bank accounts in their own names and direct deposit of wages to giving them greater access to and control over their earnings. The program increased women's working, particularly among those whose husbands had previously been most opposed to women working.

a2i center, Rajbari, Bangladesh
July 07, 2021

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of posts about adapting an ongoing policy project about digital payments with Bangladesh’s government to the current COVID-19 crisis. While the characters in this article, Kamala and her daughter, are fictional, their experience is based on that of many women IPA interviewed in our latest monitoring survey.

Mobile money clients outside an a2i center in Rajabari, Bangladesh. Photo: UNSGSA/Ismael Ferdous.

Kamala is walking home after buying food for her family with money she received through a government social...

Media Coverage
April 30, 2021

IPA founder Dean Karlan speaks alongside banking and financial inclusion experts and providers on NPR's Studio 1A program. Among the many points discussed was research showing mixed effectiveness of many well-intentioned financial inclusion efforts, including small loans designed to build credit scores for those previously outside the financial system. A randomized evaluation conducted with IPA found the average impact was zero, but that was because the loans helped some and hurt others. Karlan points out the need for more systematic testing of financial products designed to help the poor...

Zambia RECOVR 2 Timeline
April 20, 2021

As part of IPA’s ongoing research around the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19, we recently held a webinar with the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network highlighting key results of the second round of the RECOVR surveys in Zambia and Rwanda. This blog post summarizes the main findings of the survey in Zambia and policy recommendations. Click here for the blog for Rwanda.

In both countries, there are pockets of progress, including continued adherence to certain virus mitigation measures and promising acceptance rates for vaccinations. Education remains a key concern for parents of...

February 18, 2021

This piece was first published on the blog of the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) here.

A group of women in Sierra Leone interviewed during the research process. Photo: United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF)

How many consumers share their PIN with someone else? Which consumers are more likely to pay more fees on their bank accounts? These are the kinds of questions that need to be asked when developing consumer protection policies. But the answers to these questions don’t appear in the reports banks submit to their regulators, or in the documents...