Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

More People Worldwide Are Opening Bank Accounts

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

More People Worldwide Are Opening Bank Accounts

Article excerpt

NEW YORK | Africans using cellphones, older Chinese, and Indians getting a push from their government have fueled an unprecedented surge of people opening their first bank accounts.

The number people with an account -- either on mobile phones or at bank branches -- jumped by 700 million between 2011 and 2014, the World Bank said Wednesday.

The rise in new worldwide accounts has been driven by the spread of cellphones throughout areas like sub-Sahara Africa, where a bank could be miles away, and by strong economic growth in Asia.

A bank or payment account is a gateway for people to integrate into modern society. Without an account, goods cannot be bought online, money has to be transferred physically, and savings cannot be stored safely. Remittances, where people send cash home to family, becomes expensive and time consuming.

"It's the first step of getting into the world's financial system," says Asli Demirguc-Kunt, who directs research at the World Bank and co-authored its 2014 Global Findex Survey. "Basic financial services can help people save and lift themselves out of poverty and take control of their finances."

Now, 62 percent of the world's adult population has some sort of bank or payment account compared with 51 percent in 2011.

In Kenya, the number of people with bank or payment accounts has nearly doubled in three years, with almost all the growth coming from mobile accounts. Now, nearly 80 percent of the country's 44 million people have access to basic financial services. Tanzania and Uganda also saw a surge in accounts. More than half of farmers in the three African countries are using mobile accounts to sell their goods.

In five African countries -- Ivory Coast, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe -- more adults have mobile money accounts than bank accounts.

In India, account ownership has risen by 18 percentage points in three years to 53 percent. A big part of that increase is due to an Indian government program that aims to get every household to open an account. The World Bank estimates that the program spurred 125 million new accounts in four months.

Chinese account ownership also rose sharply to 79 percent in 2014 from 64 percent in 2011, with most of the growth coming from people living in rural areas as well as from older adults. …

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