The least developed countries (LDCs) in the Mekong region in ASEAN and in SAARC where SHIFT is operating is home to 353 million people, 26% of whom live below the international poverty line.
SHIFT aims to improve the living standards of vulnerable groups within these regions by opening the door towards digital financial inclusion, expanding the potential for enterprise development, employment, and increased economic participation. SHIFT recognizes that women in this region are particularly disadvantaged where there are lower levels of access and use of formal financial institutions. However, through the introduction of widespread digital financial inclusion, low-income individuals (particularly women), micro-entrepreneurs, and small and growing businesses will be better able to secure financial opportunities, mitigate risk, and substantially enhance their livelihoods and wellbeing.
SHIFT works on changing the behavior of market actors to stimulate investment, business innovations, and regulatory reform to advance financial inclusion and accelerate economic participation of and opportunities for low-income groups, especially women.
The programme works on four components:
SHIFT’s Policy and Advocacy work-stream forms partnerships and alliances to influence policy makers, financial service providers, and governments to enable financial markets to be more responsive to the wider development priorities, giving emphasis towards gender strategies within financial inclusion policies to meet the needs of women.
SHIFT’s Data and Analysis strengthens the availability and use of supply side and demand side big data analytics to conduct regional and sector-wide research on specific themes including gender, remittances and green finance.
SHIFT’s Learning and Skills Development work-stream plans to support business development service providers and learning platforms to develop or scale-up learning and investment readiness tools to strengthen the capacity of financial service providers and women-owned enterprises
The SHIFT Challenge Fund facility is a flexible common platform for crowding in investors and donors to support projects targeting financial inclusion. The Fund offers competitive matching grants to catalyse investments by private sector financial institutions and businesses.
SHIFT aims to expand its support working with national governments to adopt gender-sensitive regulations to meet the needs of women and other vulnerable groups in the realm of financial inclusion and greater economic participation. Continuing on SHIFT’s work within the ASEAN region, Bangladesh is the first pilot country for this initiative within SAARC with potential plans for exploration and expansion into Nepal in 2017 and Bhutan in 2018.