What We Do

Inclusive Digital Economies

Our Goal

Empowering millions of people by 2024 to use services daily that leverage innovation and technology and contribute to the SDGs

To achieve this vision UNCDF uses a market development approach and continuously seeks to address underlying market dysfunctions that exclude people living in the last mile.

Leaving no one behind
in the digital era

The UNCDF strategy ‘Leaving no one behind in the digital era’ is based on over a decade of experience in digital financial inclusion in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

Reaching Scale

Over the past decade, mobile money and agent banking have reached scale due, in no small part, to initiatives led by the Financial Inclusion team at UNCDF in emerging and developing economies.

Digital Finance

With its growing body of knowledge and expertise in the sector, it has become clear to UNCDF that digital finance is the primary route to financial inclusion.

Being Inclusive

Meaningful digital financial inclusion has to provide outlets for low-income accountholders to engage in the economy in order to meet their daily needs and to improve their skills, productivity and marketability in the digital-economy age.

Enabling Innovation

Digital financial services are foundational, in that they enable local entrants to innovate in markets, provide sustainability to new services, and create marketplaces for a wide range of products and services—both digital and non-digital.

Financial inclusion is not the end goal, it is a means to multiple ends

To this end, UNCDF strives to ensure that everyone has access to, and can make use of and profit from, a wide range of essential services built using digital platforms, not just the most basic voice, messaging, and mobile money services.

UNCDF leverages digital finance in support of the SDGs to realise its vision of advancing inclusive digital economies

In the past two decades, there has been a revolutionary shift in the adoption of mobile and digital technology in developing economies. Half or more of the world's population now uses mobile internet, and higher incomes at home have been linked to greater access to mobile broadband, according to research. Mobile technology can serve as a key accelerator and ensure no one is left behind.

Digital financial inclusion is directly contributing to the emergence of digital economies, and vice versa

Digital adoption in emerging markets is not a case of replicating the ‘build it and they will come’ strategy of Silicon Valley but a nuanced process of understanding the markets, the constraints of affordability and literacy, and the role of agents and on-the-ground teams in adoption efforts.

Capital and Technical

UNCDF provides capital and technical support through Inclusive Digital Economy programmes to ensure that more households and small businesses gain access to services that expand opportunities and reduce vulnerabilities.

New Products
to Underserved Markets

The ability of UNCDF to provide risk capital directly to the private sector is helping bring new products and services to under-served and hard to reach markets and spurring innovations.

Flexible Grant and Loan Instruments

Through flexible grant and loan instruments UNCDF supports a wide range of products and services in various sectors ranging from finance to agriculture, education, health and transportation.

UNCDF works with the public and private sectors to tailor services to youth, women, migrants, refugees, and MSMEs

UNCDF places particular importance on youth, women, migrants, refugees, and micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), customer segments that are often marginalized and denied digital innovation and technology due to social norms, societal status, and limited revenue and capacity.

Our Results

UNCDF contributes to the development of inclusive innovation ecosystems, as well as the development and usage of technology and digital services in key sectors.



UNCDF offered people in 35 countries comprehensive financial and other digital solutions in the year 2021.


Policies or Regulations

UNCDF supported the adoption and implementation of policies and regulations to promote financial inclusion.


DFS and Business Models Piloted

UNCDF helped pilot and then scale up 183 different financial products and services.


Users with Improved Skills

Digital services clients were directly supported and trained through enhanced literacy in digital and financial skills.

UNCDF works with private and public stakeholders to unlock market constraints and use innovation and technology to build inclusive digital economies

Our Focus Areas

These are all areas in which UNCDF has demonstrable experience and reach—achieved by a global team of experts in digital markets.


The active participation of the public and private sectors in digital and financial skills development, as well as the usage of digital channels for relevant skills development.

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The status of a country’s innovation ecosystem, including the level of development and the synergies within the innovation community, the level of skills in the ecosystem, the presence of supporting infrastructure, and the availability of financing for innovation.

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The level of development of digital infrastructures (e.g. access to power, phone ownership, etc) and the status of digital payment ecosystems, including the level of interoperability and the openness of digital infrastructures for third-party players.

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Policy and Regulation

The extent to which the government actively promotes the development of an inclusive digital economy, as well as the policies and regulations in place that support digital finance and the digital economy.

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Women as Builders of the Digital Economy, focuses on creating strategic partnerships at a global, regional and country level, and complementing them with market facilitation and deep technical assistance to affect change on the ground.

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Global development priorities include young unemployment. The youth demographic "bulge" with a chronically high unemployment rate, many in vulnerable jobs, and high economic disengagement can create disaffection, migration, social instability, and delayed development goals.

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Inclusive Digital Economies Scorecard

The Inclusive Digital Economy Scorecard (IDES) is a strategic performance and policy tool that has been developed to support countries in better understanding and monitoring the status of their digital transformation, with a view to helping them make it more inclusive.

The IDES takes into account four building blocks relevant to the development of a digital economy

The IDES is a strategic performance tool developed by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), supported by a reference group of like-minded organizations (GSMA, EU, UNDP, UNCTAD, UN-DESA and ADB) and governments in four least developed countries (LDCs): Burkina Faso, Nepal, Solomon Islands and Uganda. The input from the reference group has helped to refine the scorecard and its indicators and, more broadly, drive forward the agenda of the measurement of inclusive digital economies.

An Experienced Hand in Digital Financial Inclusion

With previous digital finance initiatives dating back to 2004, the success of past and present UNCDF interventions is measured by the millions of people now using digital financial services in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

Our team's unique experience in accelerating digital finance usage in key markets make sure impactful services reach individuals in the last-mile. Some of our previous interventions include Mobile Money for the Poor, MicroLead, YouthStart and CleanStart.

The success of these programmes have inspired our global strategy of Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era.

Better Than Cash Alliance

A partnership of governments, companies, and international organizations that accelerates the transition from cash to digital payments in order to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Making Access Possible

The MAP diagnostic approach builds a picture of market demand based on household and individual income, economic activity, and current usage of financial services within a diverse array of countries and local contexts.

Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme

Increasing the number of low-income Pacific islanders who adopt formal financial services by supporting financial service providers to innovate with products and services for mass market customers.

Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations

Improving the living standards of vulnerable groups within ASEAN by opening the door towards digital financial inclusion, expanding the potential for enterprise development, employment, and increased economic participation.

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