The complexities and simplicities of measuring national commitments to financial inclusion

Charles Marwa

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Charles Marwa, Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist at AFI, discusses data and measurement for financial inclusion at the Pacific Islands Regional Initiative (PIRI) launch in Timor-Leste in May 2015.

There are various methods to measure and demonstrate the impact of a global commitment platform such as the Alliance for Financial Inclusion’s (AFI) Maya Declaration—a platform where AFI member institutions make commitments to increase financial inclusion in their countries—from the simple aggregation of national results to more complex randomized controlled trials.

The Maya Declaration is a commitment to unlock the economic and social potential of the two billion unbanked through financial inclusion.

The Maya Declaration is a commitment to unlock the economic and social potential of the two billion unbanked through financial inclusion.

Maybe it doesn’t have to be so complicated. The fact that all AFI members endorse the Maya Declaration and 54 have outlined specific commitments might be the strongest single piece of evidence of its impact on financial inclusion. It can certainly be a complicated undertaking. Multiple actors and factors affect change in financial inclusion at both national and international levels. Things become even more difficult because of the time lag—that is, when effects of policy changes are actually felt—in addition to the challenge of attributing a change to a single policy intervention.

With this in mind, AFI set out to answer two broad questions: whether the platform has taken off, and whether it leads to increased financial inclusion by those who made specific commitments. The former is quantitative information, which is considered of lesser value in the new paradigm of results-based measurement. It is a count of the countries that sign up and continue reporting progress around numbers and types of commitments and targets achieved. The latter seeks to answer what changes occurred as a result of making specific commitments to the Maya Declaration. Expected benefits include better coordination and alignment between in-country stakeholders and higher resource allocation leading to increased financial inclusion.

It is important to track all of the changes along the results trajectory. It is also important to attempt to isolate and measure the progress of financial inclusion before and after the Maya Declaration, or with and without. We have used several models, such as sensitivity analyses, qualitative comparative analysis and regression tests, to attempt to determine the impact the Maya Declaration has on financial inclusion. One study found that AFI members that have made specific Maya Declaration commitments increased financial inclusion (Increase in percentage of adults with formal accounts from 2011 to 2014) by 9.5%, compared to 8.9% for AFI members without a Maya Declaration commitment in the period 2011 to 2014.

Governor Ndulu Maya Declaration

And the more I delve deeper and deeper into the complexities of today’s monitoring and evaluation techniques, the more I am convinced of the importance of one simple number in regard to measuring the Maya Declaration: 54.

Fifty-four institutions have made specific commitments to advance financial inclusion through the Maya Declaration, without any external incentives, and have all volunteered to self-report progress to their peers every year at the AFI Global Policy Forum (GPF). This reveals a lot about these institutions’ commitment to advance financial inclusion. It is often the culmination of a series of consultations, negotiations and resource mobilization involving many stakeholders. It is a demonstration of the high level of motivation and political will needed to make a public commitment, particularly because of the inherent scrutiny that accompanies the Maya Declaration.

Sometimes, the simplest numbers can be the most revealing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charles Marwa is the Senior Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist at the Alliance for Financial Inclusion. He can be followed on Twitter @CharlesMarwa_CM.

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