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Fintech for all: Accessibility and inclusion

Spotlighting fintech solutions designed for people with disabilities or those marginalized in traditional finance.

A 2022 analysis of the Mastercard study dubbed ‘Bridging the Disability Gap: An Opportunity to Make a Positive Impact’ shows that amongst the number of people with disabilities in selected Middle East and Africa (MEA) countries, Nigeria has the highest at 26.1 million followed by Kenya with 5.4 million, Pakistan has 3.3 million, and Egypt has 2.0 million and Morocco with 1.9 million.

Eighty percent and seventy-six percent of adults in Kenya and Nigeria with disabilities own a mobile phone. Financial accessibility and inclusion are seen as the key cornerstones in reducing poverty and promoting stable economic growth. Great strides have been made towards achieving significant financial inclusion in Africa. Be that as it may, people with disabilities and those marginalized in traditional finance face challenges accessing adequate financial services.

The visually impaired cannot confidently follow up on their financial activities as their impaired sight keeps them from visually accessing basic information from financial institutions. Moreover, those with mobility disabilities find it challenging to travel from one location to another to get financial services. This highly demotivating factor leads to the disabled refraining from financial/economic activities. Fraudsters can take advantage of such people and ruin their lives significantly. 

One of the major contributions of fintech companies is to promote financial inclusion in every nook and cranny of our wonderful planet. We shall look at some fintech platforms that promote financial accessibility and inclusivity – for all. 

According to a study on the Global Findex, Kenya has 21% of the adult population unbanked. Yikes. Two-thirds of the unbanked population said that if they opened an account in any financial institution, they could not use it without help. Now, banks and other financial institutions categorize such people under ‘Risky Clients’ as they are very susceptible to fraud. As such, they get limited or no access to essential financial services. 

22Seven from OldMutual utilizes psychology, artificial intelligence, and a simple and fun user interface to walk any individual through the financial jungle. 22Seven tones down the complex financial processes and presents them in a way everyone can understand and comfortably use. With 22Seven, anyone, regardless of their age, physical abilities, or literacy level, can easily manage their money, utilize financial services to do better things with their money, feel more confident with their money, find more of the money, and boy do banks love such individuals. 

As with all fintechsJumo is promoting financial inclusivity for all and leveraging its technologies to address unique challenges those marginalized in traditional finance face. Jumo uses Machine Learning and Big Data to assess and offer credit services tailored for those previously marginalized in conventional finance systems. Jumo also uses alternative data sources to evaluate the creditworthiness of individuals and SMEs that traditional financial institutions would have otherwise excluded.

Tala is a digital lender committed to advancing inclusivity for those left out of the traditional financial systems. Tala has sought to provide these services by providing a simple and convenient financial platform through its sleek, mobile-friendly application. Tala is a mobile technology and data science company that is opening up financial access for underserved people in Kenya and around the world. Tala’s smartphone app instantly evaluates customers for credit using only the data on their devices and delivers customized loans in minutes. 

You need a loan, and for some unavoidable circumstance, there is zero proof that your profile conforms to any of the 5 C’s of Borrowing (character, capacity, capital, collateral, and conditions). You pled and begged, but the traditional financial system kept hitting you with a shiny red NO. That was before you came across Kiva. Kiva is a P2P lending platform that serves borrowers in more than 70 countries on 5 continents. By connecting borrowers and lenders worldwide, Kiva enables individuals in underserved communities to access finances, pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, support their families, and break the cycle of poverty.

Tencent’s WeBank has incorporated the use of accessibility features for those with visual impairments to seamlessly go about their financial activities without hindrances due to their disabilities. WeBank uses intelligence-powered speech synthesis for accessibility and real-time image processing for the various needs of people with visual impairments. Moreover, WeBank also provides biometric authentication and facial anti-spoofing algorithms for advanced security. Additionally, the app’s framework is open-source, paving the way for collaboration with other technologies to create a more inclusive banking experience for those with disabilities. 

If you think you’ve had enough, AllLife is a South African fintech platform offering life assurance to individuals with HIV or diabetes. Most insurance and assurance companies raise their hands on such cases due to the risks involved. However, AllLife utilizes data-driven algorithmic pricing for uninsurable people who face challenges in acquiring such dire financial services. This is a significant advancement as many other insurance companies are reluctant to offer coverage to people with such conditions. 

We cannot fail to mention Internetofthing’s Seer. This intelligent personal assistance lets one automate their lives and have a slight experience of how it would feel like to pilot one of Tony Stark’s suits. Seer offers the luxury and convenience of using your voice to control your phone, computer, or house. With this technology, specially-abled people can gain access to the world as any other person would. This technology is gold to the visually impaired as they can manage their finances easily without any hurdles.

Lastly, we have the Karsikornbank (KBank). KBank set up the Beacon Interface Company to specially convenience blind people, the low vision, and elderly while conducting their financial activities. Beacon Interface uses a hi-tech mobile interface with voice and vibration features, enabling the visually impaired to conduct their transactions as easily as anyone else would. The interface and vibration features guide the visually impaired through their transaction in that they can clearly understand and follow up on the processes they are undertaking. 

With that much said, fintechs are fantastic. The examples mentioned above in the spotlight and many other platforms are saviors. They are a parade of Knights in Shining armor for those with disabilities and any soul marginalized in traditional financial systems. Some, like Kiva ad 22Seven even have it in their hearts to put the fun in funding. With a focus on inclusivity, transparency, affordability, and customer-centricity, fintechs, once again, are reshaping the financial landscape by empowering every individual in the world, regardless, to take control of their finances and bask in the beautiful light of financial inclusion.

However, this is just the beginning. However, this is only the start. There is no specific fintech platform that has been developed solely to make life easier for people with disabilities. Or is there? What we have here is a pointer that fintechs have an infinite amount of possibilities when it comes to financial inclusion for everyone. Soon, we might need an interplanetary money transfer. Where else will we run to if not to our beloved fintech platforms? A lot is yet to be achieved from the foundation that the current platforms have already set. As technology advances while keeping watch on our climate, it’s only a matter of time before financial technologies solve almost all our financial problems. 

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