WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 10, 2022 — Small business owners in emerging economies are facing multiple challenging circumstances, from rising prices and high import costs to new obstacles posed by climate disasters. As the global economy continues to go digital, a new report from global nonprofit Accion and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth shows what small businesses and their clients can gain from digitalization and demonstrates how digital tools designed for small businesses can advance economic inclusion.
The report presents learnings from a four-year program, launched in 2019 and continuing through the COVID-19 global pandemic, in which Accion, supported by the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, worked with nine financial service providers and 50 fintech startups around the world to help small businesses leverage digital tools. The findings demonstrate the importance of accelerating the digital transformation of small businesses, which account for 90 percent of businesses worldwide and create seven out of 10 jobs in emerging markets.
Over a four-year period:
- Digital adoption increased among women entrepreneurs. Women accounted for 75 percent of new product users, demonstrating the potential of digital tools to expand access to financial services for women and other underserved people.
- Financial health improved. Nearly 80 percent of product users interviewed across five countries reported increased capacity to manage financial challenges, including the ability to repay loans on time or access credit for their business needs, which they attributed to products developed by the partnership.
- Digital tools boosted productivity and growth. Digital product users reported a 30 percent increase in business growth activities with more than 61 percent linking these improvements, at least partially, to the digital products used.
- 30-day usage of digital tools by unique users increased by 400 percent, showing that people were not only accessing the tools but consistently using them. Tools included products designed to support financial literacy, digital savings, and short-term loans for underserved businesses.
As the program concludes, the report reveals that more than 11.5 million people benefited from digital transformation, including more than 4.4 million micro and small businesses that now use digital tools on a regular basis. From April 2021 to April 2022, the number of active digital users (one year active) increased by more than 1.1 million across all program partners, with 800,000 added in the final six months alone.
Michael Schlein, President and CEO of Accion, said: “Small businesses are the backbone of local communities, and the rapidly digitizing economy presents new opportunities to provide them with more and better financial services. We have shown that when financial service providers and fintechs design digital products and services that meet the needs of micro and small businesses and their clients, people will use them. We’re excited by the potential of these products to improve the financial wellbeing and resilience of millions of people around the world.”
“Our work with Accion shows that digital financial tools can be game-changers for small businesses and the people around the world who run them,” said Shamina Singh, Founder and President of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. “The positive impact we’ve seen as women business owners embrace digitalization is especially encouraging, and we hope to further enable that trend as our partnership moves forward. This program not only confirms early learnings about the potential for the digital economy to empower small business success, but it provides an evidence base for the opportunity we have in this moment to unlock the financial health of underserved people through digital tools and services.”
In addition to addressing the digital transformation of micro and small business-focused financial service providers, the program provided support to fintechs serving micro and small businesses globally, offered COVID-19 resources to small businesses in the U.S., and conducted research on the micro and small business impacts of the pandemic. As restrictions on movement lifted, the program focused on long-term digital transformation strategies to connect underserved people to new economic opportunities.
Experts from Accion, Mastercard, and financial institutions leading on digital transformation will discuss the report’s findings, lessons learned, and best practices for the future at the Digital Transformation Forum in London on November 15, available by livestream here.
Accion is a global nonprofit committed to creating a financially inclusive world, with a pioneering legacy in microfinance and fintech impact investing. We catalyze financial service providers to deliver high-quality, affordable solutions at scale for the 1.8 billion people who are left out of — or poorly served by — the financial sector. For more than 60 years, Accion has helped tens of millions of people through our work with more than 200 partners in 63 countries. More at accion.org.
About the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth
The Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth advances equitable and sustainable economic growth and financial inclusion around the world. The center leverages the company’s core assets and competencies, including data insights, expertise and technology, while administering the philanthropic Mastercard Impact Fund, to produce independent research, scale global programs and empower a community of thinkers, leaders and doers on the front lines of inclusive growth. For more information and to receive its latest insights, follow the center on Twitter and LinkedIn and subscribe to its newsletter.