Cover photo: Civic volunteers responding to COVID-19 hand out groceries in Kolkata, India. Photo by Suprabhat Dutta.

In New York City, we’re removing our masks. Restaurants and small businesses are filling with customers again. Vaccines are plentiful. The city is returning to a new normal.

Meanwhile, in Mumbai, people are getting sick and the health system is dangerously overloaded. People are literally dying in the streets. New lockdowns are making it even harder for small businesses and families to make ends meet.

And in Bogota, thousands of people are protesting. Inequality is growing and there is widespread anger and worry about what the future looks like.

This is the world we now live in. The disparity between the developed and the developing world has never been greater—and it is growing. This is not good.

Accion is a global nonprofit dedicated to creating a financially inclusive world. We work with partners around the world to help disadvantaged people get the financial tools they need to build better lives. The disparities we are seeing have never been more extreme. I fear that, without significant action, they will get much worse.

We have never lived through a global pandemic of this magnitude. It is human nature that, as we face extreme challenges, we focus on trying to solve the most local of problems. And that’s what we’ve seen. During the pandemic, philanthropy has become locally focused. But, now, we need to change that.

As we take off our masks, we need to open our eyes to devastating disparities around the world. We need to create the world we aspire to live in—and take the steps to get there. We need to help vulnerable people in the developing world get through this crisis—and rebuild their lives.

Going digital to build an inclusive recovery

In addition to helping vaccinate the rest of the world, the U.S. and wealthy nations must work to create an inclusive recovery for all. A great way to support that goal is to leverage digital technology to help more people, families, and small businesses start participating in the digital economy and build financial resilience.

One small silver lining of the pandemic has been the widespread adoption of digital financial services. When face-to-face transactions weren’t possible, if you had a digital alternative, you seized it. If you could pay a bill without leaving your home, you did. So we’ve seen a huge uptake in digital tools that offer more security, flexibility, and opportunities than cash. A recent report from GSMA found that mobile money accounts grew by 13 percent in 2020 to more than 1.2 billion—and remittances sent via mobile money exceeded $1 billion per month for the first time ever. These are encouraging signs.

But this is just a first step. We need to build on this and help people use these tools to achieve meaningful financial inclusion. More than just payments, we need to provide the financial tools of resilience: savings, insurance, and appropriate credit. We need to help small mom-and-pop shops digitize and manage themselves better, faster, and safer. And we need to make sure that the most vulnerable people in the world have the digital literacy to use these tools well and to get the most out of them.

With your support, we will continue to help those most affected by the pandemic and those most at risk of being left behind. Together, we will expand the reach, quality, and affordability of critical tools that help adapt against today’s challenges, build financial resilience, and lay the foundation for an inclusive recovery. If we can do this, ultimately, we can emerge from the pandemic and build a global economy that can work for everyone. That’s our vision.

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