Malawi Financial Inclusion Refresh

  • December 01, 2020

  • Publications, guides and communication materials


Countries are seeking new ways to address complex and interconnected challenges. Fulfilling the promise of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires multi-sectoral approaches that bring together expertise from a range of perspectives. By harnessing our comparative advantage and working within the context of our respective mandates, we can collectively make significant progress towards realising the vision of the SDGs.

Financial inclusion is increasingly positioned as an enabler of broader development goals, in support of the SDGs. More and more countries are including an inclusive financial sector as a key objective in their national development plans, and this tendency is further underpinned by the G20 leadership of financial inclusion, which highlights the ongoing relevance of the SDGs and nationally led financial inclusion efforts. Furthermore, financial markets play a vital role in creating a sustainable future.

Access to finance for individuals, SMEs and governments is important to a number of the SDGs, helping to facilitate secure payments, including for basic services and trade; smooth cash flows; offer financial protection; and improve allocation of capital while also enabling investments in many areas.

This MAP refresh, in supporting country efforts, increases the focus on inclusive growth (especially through SMEs and agriculture), access to basic services (energy, health and education), and improving household resilience, as well as gender equality. Increased reliance on technological innovation and digital financial services will help to improve the scale and efficiency of financial inclusion interventions.

This refresh was undertaken by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) to jointly address UNDP’s Signature Solution 1, which seeks to work with countries to keep people out of poverty, relating directly to SDG 1: eradicate all forms of poverty, wherever it exists.

Our technical response

Create a pervasive infrastructure through partnerships to enhance the quality and depth of financial inclusion in Malawi, laying out a vision for the enhancement of financial inclusion in Malawi, in order to support national objectives through employment creation, human capital development and improved household welfare.

This vision was set out in 2015, when the UNCDF assisted the Government of Malawi with the preparation of a National Strategy for Financial Inclusion. It called for a MAP study on Malawi, which follows an approach adopted in a range of countries, including Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lao PDR, Lesotho, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand. The 2015 MAP diagnostic report for Malawi considered the country context, demand and supply for financial services, and the regulation of these services.

The report identified practical recommendations for overcoming barriers to greater financial inclusion, including:

  1. expanding the reach of payments,
  2. leveraging village savings and loan associations (VSLAs) to enable savings,
  3. targeted finance for MSMEs and farmers,
  4. niche insurance opportunities to reduce vulnerabilities and,
  5. effective consumer empowerment and education.

In this updated MAP report (MAP refresh), we review the implementation of the 2015 MAP diagnostic and consider key market changes and identify financial inclusion interventions that can grow the economy and benefit society. This MAP refresh accompanies a 2019 MAP report on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Malawi, and draws on that research.

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