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IMF Weighs Financial Inclusion in Kenya, But Not Elsewhere, Ghana Update

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 2 -- Amid the Kenya report released under embargo today by the International Monetary Fund is a review of financial inclusion and technology:

"Financial inclusion continues progressing with mobile-banking loans and deposits driven by M-Shwari (7 million customers in its first year of operations) and higher SME access to credit.

"M-Pesa was introduced in 2007 as a means to transfer money via mobile phones. M-Pesa users deposit money into a 'cell phone account,' and use SMS technology for transfers and 'on demand' payments. Thanks to its use of low-cost technology, overall transaction costs have declined as bills can be paid remotely. Even more importantly, the poor have benefited the most: M-Pesa reaches 84 percent of population earning less than US$2 a day.  M-Shwari, a deposit-lending facility tailored to the poor, has 7 million active customers in over a year of operations. Kenyan farmers benefit from schemes to acquire equipment, like water pumps, with repayments being made through M-Pesa; M-Kopa allows the use of solar panels in areas not served by the power grid, with repayments in small installments."

   Whether in other contexts the IMF is promoting financial inclusion is another question. But there is much to be learned from Kenya - including for lower income parts of the ostensibly developed world. We'll have more on this.

  On October 1 at the UN, Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access pushed for and reported on a briefing about African Regional Economic Communities, here.

  Back on September 25, with Ghana hosting an International Monetary Fund visit, Inner City Press asked IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice about what Ghana’s President John Mahama said this week at the New York Stock Exchange: "It is my hope that by January we should start a three-year IMF program to try and stabilize the macroeconomic environment.”

Rice took the question from Inner City Press and said "I can tell you we currently have an IMF team in Accra to initiate discussions on a program. We will have a press release at the end of that mission. The context is, indeed, that the Ghana authorities initiated discussion on an economic program that could be supported by the Fund. Those are the discussions that are then taking place. So it's premature to have dates and more details on that process because the team is in Ghana. We’re expecting it to conclude this week, and we will communicate at the right time."

  Then this, concluding that "discussions on a possible program that could be supported by the IMF will continue in Washington during the Annual Meetings."

  Inner City Press also submitted this question on September 25: “Ukraine PM Yatseniuk yesterday said, 'We do understand that we have to readjust the program. Because when we started the program with the IMF, it was a peace program. For today, this is a wartime government and a wartime program.' What is the IMF's response to / comment on this?”

  While Rice said that there was no request for any “readjustment” yet, that the IMF will combine two reviews in November with an eye toward its Executive Board meeting on Ukraine at the end of the year or early 2015. He said the purpose of such reviews, generally, is readjustment.

  But Rice did in this answer address the appropriateness of IMF lending into what Yatseniuk called “a wartime government and a wartime program" speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. We'll have more on this as well.


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