Digitising Financial Services: A Tool for Financial Inclusion in South Africa?

Financial inclusion offers incremental and complementary solutions to tackle poverty, promote inclusive development and address the Sustainable Development Goals. This paper examines financial inclusion and provides a macro view of the overall benefits and risks associated with digital financial services insofar as they are used to promote financial inclusion. It highlights some of the progress that financial inclusion has brought globally and unpacks the key issues raised regarding financial inclusion in a digital era. The second part of the paper is an examination of South Africa’s efforts at financial inclusion. South Africa is an ideal case study for examining financial inclusion in driving access to the financial sector. In particular, the South African case study provides a snapshot of current progress in achieving financial inclusion, existing challenges in deepening financial inclusion and developments towards further reforms to achieve enhanced inclusion. The third part of the paper examines the opportunities that could be leveraged to improve digital financial inclusion in Africa. The paper concludes by making recommendations for the potential strengthening of the South African financial inclusion strategy as applicable takeaways for the broader African continent pursuing financial inclusion.