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Jersey to provide banking help for some of the world’s poorest?

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JERSEY has an opportunity to help some of the world’s poorest people access basic financial services that could transform their lives, according to the head of a global partnership that works to build inclusive financial systems around the globe.

Greta Bull (centre right), the chief executive of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and a director at the World Bank Group, with members of the Jersey Overseas Aid Commission (23833827)

Greta Bull, the chief executive of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor and a director at the World Bank Group, visited Jersey last week for meetings with International Development Minister Carolyn Labey, Chief Minister John Le Fondré and the Jersey Overseas Aid Commission. She also met representatives of the Island’s finance industry and the Jersey Financial Services Commission.

Financial inclusion – ensuring everyone has access to useful and affordable financial products and services – is now one of Jersey Overseas Aid’s key focus areas.

The organisation is currently working with Comic Relief on a four-year project to bring basic financial services to nearly one million poor people in Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Zambia.

Deputy Labey now hopes that Jersey could become a partner member of CGAP. Other members include governments, the European Commission, banks and international foundations such as the Mastercard Foundation, MetLife Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ms Bull praised Jersey’s interest in exploring ways it could contribute its knowledge and expertise towards financial inclusion and said the Island had lots to offer.

‘There are lots of things Jersey could do. Financial inclusion is a big, complicated and rapidly growing space and there are a lot of layers,’ she said.

She added that Jersey could have particular strengths that would be useful to such work, as a result of its financial services sector and even dairy industry, as farmers, particularly in Africa, often do not access financial services.

And she said that it was not necessarily about pumping large amounts of cash into projects.

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‘Moderate amounts of money combined with expertise can be much more impactful,’ she said.

Ms Bull said she was also pleased to see Jersey running projects in places such as Sierra Leone and Zambia, which were often overlooked.

CGAP estimates that around 1.7 billion people around the world are ‘unbanked’ and do not have any financial accounts. As a result, Ms Bull said they effectively did not exist when it came to data, records and credit, and were limited in how they could help work their own way out of poverty.

Companies are increasingly developing products to enable those in developing nations to access technology, for example off-grid electric using solar energy that they can draw on using small payments when they want to charge a phone, run a light to study with at night or power a television which they could then charge people to watch, thus creating a small business. However, in most circumstances, they require a bank account to access such a service.

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Similarly, farmers cannot take out crop or cattle insurance without bank accounts and proven records.

Ms Bull said: ‘As a leader in global finance, Jersey has a vital role to play in helping foster inclusive and responsible financial markets that meet the needs of poor people. We have seen over the past decade just how important inclusive financial systems are to the stability, safety and successful functioning of economies and markets.’

Asked whether Jersey Overseas Aid planned to explore becoming a member of GCAP, Deputy Labey said it did.

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
author

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