For many people around the world, banking is easy: swipe a card, check a balance online, visit an ATM, or make a payment using a smartphone. Without these tools, how do families manage their finances, grow a small business, or send a payment to a relative? There are 2 billion “unbanked“ people around the world who lack access to these basic financial services. Over the past decade, the annual CGAP Photo Contest has documented the remarkable ways that access to formal financial services can improve poor people‘s day-to-day activities. During this time much has changed. New innovations, such as digital financial services, offer great promise for better serving poor customers.
The United Nations announced in September 2015 the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Financial inclusion is a critical enabler for many of these goals, including poverty reduction, economic growth and jobs, greater food security and agricultural production, women’s economic empowerment, and health protection. The World Bank has also recognized the importance of financial inclusion, and its intrinsic relationship to reducing poverty. Earlier in 2015, The World Bank set the goal of achieving Universal Financial Access by 2020.
Now in its 10th year, the annual CGAP Photo Contest aims to demonstrate the ways financial inclusion can help poor people transition out of poverty and lead more financially secure lives. This year, we looked for photos that touch on the following themes: Digital financial services and mobile banking, women‘s use of financial services, microfinance for small business enterprises, and smallholder farmers and their families.
The response to this year’s contest was significant. We received 3,300 entries from professional and amateur photographers in 77 countries. The judges were Leena Jayaswal, Director of Photography Program and Associate Professor at American University’s School of Communication in Washington, D.C., Nicole Crowder, Photo Editor for The Washington Post’s photography blog, In Sight, and Corinne Dufka, Associate Director at Human Rights Watch and an award-winning photographer.
CGAP is a think tank housed at The World Bank whose mission is to advance financial inclusion for the world’s poor.
Grand Prize Winner: “Paddy Cultivation,” by Sujan Sarkar of India.
From the Photographer: Rice is the staple food of West Bengal, India. Men, women and even children take part in paddy cultivation.
What the Judges Said: “The picture brings so much beauty to the act of farming, which others might say is dirty or uncomfortable. The composition is stunning. Every inch of the picture says something and contributes to the global theme.” - Corinne Dufka
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: Globally, there are 450 million smallholder farming households, accounting for approximately 2 billion people. The represent the largest group of people by livelihood living on less than $2 a day. Being serious about financial inclusion means being serious about reaching smallholder farmers.
Second Prize Winner: “Fishing with a Net,” Liming Cao of China.
From the Photographer: Fishermen fish with nets early in the morning. They sell fish at the market to make a living.
What the Judges Said: “I feel like I’m on the boat with him because of the tilted angle. I feel the movement of the photograph and I’m right there with him. I appreciate not seeing the face of the fisherman because it feels like the identity could be any worker. It makes me think globally about workers from a larger perspective.” -Leena Jayaswal
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: 2 billion people globally are unbanked - meaning they do not have access to formal financial services such as credit, savings, or insurance. To date, financial service providers have struggled with developing financial products that are relevant to the lives of the poor, which contributes to financial exclusion. In order to develop products that work for the poor, financial service providers need to understand their customers first. While often defined by a single attribute - their poverty level - the global unbanked are actually a diverse group of people who make their living from a huge variety of livelihoods and thus require products tailored to their lives. Putting customers at the center is a critical component of effectively serving poor communities, so that whether the customer is a fisherman, a camel trader, an artisan, a farmer, or a small business owner, there are financial services that work for him or her.
Third Prize Winner: “Hands for Freedom,” by Pranab Basak of India.
From the Photographer: A teenage girl helps her father in their pottery business.
What the Judges Said: “There are so many beautiful elements here. There is a great warmth in the image. It’s a nice portrait of a family doing what they do all the time together. The girl’s eyeline is compelling, as is the repetition of the hands and the pots.” - Nicole Crowder
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: In India, only 43% of women have a bank account, compared to 62% of men. In 2015, India made huge steps to increasing financial inclusion among its poorest people, however gaps, especially among women, remain.
Winner, Digital Finance Theme: “Happy Vendor,” by Subrata Adkhikary of India.
From the Photographer: Although this woman comes from a remote village 50 km away to sell ginger and garlic in the city, she is always smiling. She and other street vendors have no permanent place to sell their goods, but manage to find places to do so, like under a truck or a bridge.
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: Digital financial services - often powered by mobile phones - have significant potential to provide a range of affordable, convenient and secure banking to poor people in developing countries. Historically, the high cost of building and operating traditional bank branches has been a major obstacle for reaching poor customers with financial services. Digital finance helps providers overcome these barriers. Early successes - such as M-PESA in Kenya - underscore the potential of mobile technology in particular to advance financial inclusion. In 2014, only 0.3% of adults in India used mobile money. However, several new regulations and policy changes are paving the way for this channel to link more people with financial services.
Winner, Smallholder Families Theme: “Work in the Mountains,” by Tatiana Sharapova of the Russian Federation.
From the Photographer: Old Ladakhi women work in a mountain field. They grow vegetables to sell at a local market in Ladakh, in northern India.
What the Judges Said: “For me, this was an India I haven’t seen.” - Leena Jayaswal
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: Smallholders are not a homogeneous group of people - they are involved in a variety of activities - both farming-related and not - and are spread geographically over diverse and remote locations. This is why connecting them with formal financial services - which could help them improve their crops, improve their access to markets and value chains, plan for the future, or save to cover shocks - is difficult.
Winner, Women’s Use of Financial Services Theme: “Creating the Creator,” by Prathamesh Vinod Ghadekar of India.
From the Photographer: This woman works in the backyard of her house creating idols of the Hindu God “Ganesh” as the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi nears. She procured a small loan from a local women’s empowerment group, which is in turn financed by a bank under a government scheme. The whole family chips in to play their part in making the idols, with her husband playing a lead role. After the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, this family will get busy preparing idols of Hindu Goddess “Durga” for the festival Durga Puja.
What the Judges Said: “She looks like she’s been working at this so long. Her stare is intense.” - Corinne Dufka
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: Having access to financial services can empower women by providing them with a safe place to store money outside the home and enabling them to handle their finances with greater privacy. In developing countries, 59% of men have financial accounts compared to 50% of women.
Winner, Small Business Enterprises Theme: “Sari Spider,” by Tatiana Sharapova of the Russian Federation.
From the Photographer: An Indian man makes a traditional silk sari at the first floor of his small house in Varanasi.
What the Judges Said: “You can feel his wisdom compiled in the sari fabric.” - Corinne Dufka
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: There are 400 million micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries. Within this group are included family businesses, independent shop keepers, and other small entrepreneurs. Among these 400 million businesses, only 15% have access to credit, and 25% say that access to finance is a major constraint to growing their businesses. It has been proven in many countries that appropriate access to credit can lead to larger and more profitable businesses.
Winner, Eastern Europe and Central Asia Region: “Tomato,” by Bülent Suberk of Turkey.
From the Photographer: A peasant family in Bursa Aksu Village, Turkey, make tomato paste. Although it is impossible to increase wealth in all countries in the world, saving a human from poverty is the most common and important problem of the low income countries. I appreciate, like and take photographs of the people in my country who are learning and keep busy with manufacturing, folkloric arts and handiworks to save themselves from poverty and try to reach a minimum standard of living independently from the government aid.
What the Judges Said: “The lighting is beautiful. It speaks to tradition and years of working together.” -Corinne Dufka
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: 51% of adults in Europe and Central Asia have a financial account, and the region is home to 105 million of the world’s 2 billion unbanked adults. Turkey is one of the largest upper middle-income countries with a vast potential to expand financial inclusion. Turkey currently holds the G20 presidency and has declared financial inclusion to be one of its priorities as a powerful driver of inclusive growth. Over the past year, a lot has changed in terms of financial inclusion in the country: the number of people who saved in the past year more than doubled; the number of women among account holders grew from about 33% to over 44%; and the loan usage grew more than four times.
Winner, Latin America and Caribbean Region: “Eleuterio the Hairdresser,” by David Martin Huamani Bedoya of Peru.
From the Photographer: Eleuterio Arturo Leon Mejia, who is more than 90 years old, has been dedicated to the profession of hairdresser since he was 25 years old. From his barber’s chair, he has given style and elegance to several generations of his neighbors. He lives in Carhuaz (Ancash), Peru, together with his children and grandchildren, who are engaged in agriculture. With this small but appreciated business, he continues to contribute to his family.
What the Judges Said: “The nostalgia wins me over in this photo.” - Leena Jayaswal
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: According to the Global Findex, 39% of adults in Latin America and the Caribbean have financial accounts. Peru is slightly behind its peers, with 29% of adults having accounts. What it lacks in accounts, however, it is making up for with progress with agent networks - more than 38,000 mobile money agents conduct millions in monthly transactions. Other types of payments networks have also flourished, processing millions of monthly bill payments and transactions through a similar agent arrangement with thousands of mom & pop shops.
Winner, Middle East and North Africa Region: “Eye for Detail,” by Evans Claire Onte of United Arab Emirates.
From the Photographer: This watch repairman makes a living by repairing watches in a small space in Bur Dubai.
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: Just 14% of adults in the Middle East and North Africa region have access to financial accounts, making it the “least included” region in the world. Many factors complicate financial inclusion in this region, including a variety of political crises, refugee populations, and even cultural or religious norms that prevent Muslim populations from using traditional financial products.
Winner, East Asia and Pacific Region: “Overcoming Sandhill,” by Lê Minh Quốc of Vietnam.
From the Photographer: These workers pass through the dunes in the morning.
What the Judges Said: “It makes you wonder how the photographer took this photo.” - Nicole Crowder
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: In East Asia and the Pacific, 51% of adults have a financial account. However, inclusion varies among countries. In Vietnam, for example, only 31% of adults have a financial account, and only 15% of adults have a formal savings account, despite high levels of financial activity in the informal sector. Vietnam also has high levels of mobile penetration, making it a place ripe for financial innovation.
Winner, Sub-Saharan Africa Region: “Farida’s Maize Harvest,” Hailey Tucker, USA.
From the Photographer: Smallholder farmer Farida Balama harvests maize in Tanzania. Farida farms with her father Beatus to help provide for their family. Farida has more than 20 siblings. Her father could not afford to educate her or her siblings of the same age group, but since receiving planting supplies on credit from One Acre Fund, his harvest yields have improved and they are able to enroll the younger children.
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: Due to great levels of risk and uncertainty, smallholder families must balance several sources of income - within and outside of agriculture - while juggling a range of family needs and using an equally diverse portfolio of financial tools. Smallholders are a financial inclusion imperative, and they face a unique set of financial needs that are not yet fully understood and are far from being met. Agricultural training, financial education and improved use of inputs like fertilizer or pesticides are all services related to smallholders’ diverse financial needs.
From the Photographer: A young mother of a poor village family makes wooden dolls.
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: In poor regions in India, Women head households, manage their financial lives through remittances received, and sometimes seek daily wage labor to boost their meager and fluctuating incomes. They often depend on the local moneylender to buy food during desperate times, deal with health shocks and seek treatment in private hospitals, or for weddings, at exorbitant interest rates that can sometimes be as high as 100% annually. In some areas, banks are working with women’s local self-help groups to establish agents in villages that would enable women to save formally and make payments without having to trek long distances to far-away banks. Many women became comfortable with these services but many others remained skeptical, often asking the question, “Will this bank run away?” Promoting understanding of financial services by women customers in rural areas and empowering them to choose and use the services that benefit them will be a key to advancing financial inclusion in India.
Honorable Mention: “The Struggle Mother,” by Giri Wijayanto of Indonesia.
From the Photographer: A woman farmer plants seeds of chili while carrying her son. It has become the norm for women in villages in Indonesia to take on more farming as their husbands go to the cities for factory work.
What the Judges Said: “This is such a reality for any working mom. We may not carry our kids with us at work every day, but many of us carry the guilt of leaving them at home.” - Leena Jayaswal
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: Of the 2 billion unbanked people worldwide, 1.1 billion are women. Legal gender differences are widespread: 155 of the 173 economies in a recent World Bank report have at least one law impeding women’s economic opportunities. Specifically related to financial services, there are five types of regulations that often leave women excluded from the economy: identity regulations, laws determining credit-worthiness, agent banking regulations, mobile banking regulations, and consumer protection regulations.
Honorable Mention: “An Old Lady Photographer,” by Supriya Biswas of India.
From the Photographer: An old lady photographer and her happy moods.
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: Youth and older individuals are two groups for whom financial inclusion is especially important. Youth under the age of 25 make up nearly half of the world’s population, and tomorrow, they will be the adults in need of financial services. Bringing financial services - often in the form of savings accounts - to youth in developing countries has social benefits: youth savings can promote asset-building, instill good financial habits and improve a country’s overall gross savings rate. Encouraging savings early on can lead to more financially stable individuals, in turn contributing to economic stability. However, the business case for financial services providers is unclear: youth are hard to reach in traditional ways, maintain low balances on accounts, are sensitive to product pricing, and identification requirements in certain countries actually prevent youth from opening a savings account.
Similarly, aging is advancing rapidly in developing countries, and incomes for older people are unpredictable. Financial services could help older people make ends meet, but much like with younger populations, financial services providers are hesitant about the business case for reaching older people. Concerns about financial capability - especially in an increasingly digital environment - and income instability are two significant barriers.
Honorable Mention: “Betel Nut,” by M. Yousuf Tushar of Bangladesh.
From the Photographer: A self-employed man prepares betel nut to sell in a local market in Teknaf, Bangladesh. He is overcoming unemployment by planting and harvesting the crop.
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: Poor people live and work in the informal economy and are often self-employed. As a result, they need a broad range of financial services to create and sustain livelihoods, build assets, manage risks, and smooth consumption. According to the IFC, while small and medium enterprises employ the largest number of people in aggregate, when it comes to access to finance, they are relatively unserved. An estimated one-half to two-thirds of SMEs lack access to finance, and there is a finance gap of upwards of $2 trillion - small firms who seek financial services but cannot obtain them. Increasing evidence shows that access to formal financial services, including credit, can be beneficial for self-employed people or small businesses in that it helps them to expand their business, increase income, invest, or even employ others.
Honorable Mention: “Camel Market 2,” by Mohamed Kamal of Egypt.
From the Photographer: Camel sellers enter a market in Egypt.
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: In Egypt, 14% of adults have a financial account, an increase from 10% in 2011. Complicating the financial inclusion efforts in the country is the fact that Egypt has become home to 200,000 refugees from Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and elsewhere. These individuals are often pushed to the informal sector to look for work and may lack identification. The Graduation Approach, which involves providing wage employment, a cash contribution, vocational training, and health and social guidance, has been piloted with urban refugees to help them progress from vulnerability to sustainability.
Honorable Mention: “Duck Egg Collection,” by Tran Van Tuy of Vietnam.
From the Photographer: Duck breeding and egg harvesting is the main income for this family in Vietnam.
What the Judges Said: “You can really see how financial help could make her life better.”
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: In Vietnam, 63% of the population is employed in the informal sector, 47% of all employment was in the agricultural sector. A 2014 directive from the Prime Minister instructed financial institutions to proactively lend to the agricultural sector and for projects in rural development, however, many people are still being left behind. The gap between the rich and the poor is becoming a concern despite overall economic growth in the country.
Honorable Mention: “For the Next Journey,” by Loc Mai of Vietnam.
From the Photographer: In a fishing village in Nhatran, Vietnam, these women are repairing fishnets for their husbands for the next journey to the ocean.
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: In Vietnam, a country where 31% of adults have a financial account, just 18.4% of adults borrowed from a financial institution in the past year. This means that people involved in traditional livelihoods - like fishing, for example, - are either managing to support their own endeavors, or are using informal sources of financing to fill gaps in income.
Honorable Mention: “Gravel Workmen,” by Faisal Azim of Bangladesh.
From the Photographer: A gravel-crushing workplace in Chittagong, Bangladesh remains full of dust and sand. Three gravel workmen are looking through the window glass at their working place. These workers have come to work here for six months. Afterward they will return home or move on to other work.
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: In Bangladesh, remittances comprise 9.2% of GDP. bKash, a mobile money service offered by BRAC Bank, powers a huge portion of domestic remittances - sent primarily by men who leave their families in rural areas to work in cities. Since its launch as the first mobile money service in Bangladesh in 2011, bKash (as of December 2013) completes $680 million in monthly transactions through a network of 80,000 agents. For many temporary and migrant workers, bKash has become the first and only option for sending money back home.
Honorable Mention: “Grazing in the Morning,” by Liming Cao of China.
From the Photographer: A herdsman family, with support through loans, bought thousands of sheep. They sell wool, goat‘s milk, and mutton to make a living.
What the Judges Said: “It feels biblical.” - Nicole Crowder
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: China is a financial inclusion powerhouse. Nearly 8 in 10 adults in the country have a bank account, according to the 2014 Global Findex. China’s progress has been a major driver of global financial inclusion. In fact, of the world’s 500 million newly banked adults, more than one third (180 million) live in China. China is unique in that it has even made progress among rural populations - some of the most difficult to bring into the financial system. Seventy-four percent of rural adults were formally “banked” in 2014. On the flip side, there is still room for progress. China is second only to India in terms of numbers of unbanked adults: 234 million remain unbanked in the country, 71% of these living in rural areas.
Honorable Mention: “Human Pushing Xiep,” by Phuc Ngo Quang of Vietnam.
From the Photographer: In the coastal town of Bac Lieu, Vietnam, these people earn a living by catching shrimp, crabs, and small fish. They work along the edge of the water with xiep, or netting attached to a bamboo frame, catching fish when the tide pulls away. It is very hard labor and the income is low.
What the Judges Said: “The one bamboo pole out of line makes this photo.” - Leena Jayaswal
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: Vietnam is one of the World Bank’s focus countries for achieving Universal Financial Access by 2020. With 69% of the country’s adult population still unbanked, improving financial inclusion for Vietnam’s 90 million people would be a huge victory. Low-income people, often those who work in traditional industries , in Vietnam are especially affected by financial inclusion.
Honorable Mention: “Iron Ribs,” by Subhasis Sen of India
From the Photographer: A young boy and his father work in their shop bending iron.
What the Judges Said: “They just work so hard. It speaks of struggle and perseverance.” - Corinne Dufka
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: In India, the percentage of adults with financial accounts increased from 35% in 2011 to 53% in 2014. After the Prime Minister’s push toward financial inclusion in August 2015, the country earned a slot in the Guinness Book of World Records for most bank accounts opened in one week - 18,096,130. However, accounts alone do not determine financial inclusion. 85.9 million of these newly opened accounts in India maintain zero balances (are not being used). In order to really improve financial access by poor people, India needs to not only increase the number of accounts in the country but also create more opportunities for people to use them as part of their daily lives.
Honorable Mention: “Morning,” by Do Hieu Liem of Vietnam.
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: Around 10% of the world’s population is employed in fishing and fish production, and this is a significant source of income in Vietnam. Many people employed in these traditional industries are unbanked. They have unique financial needs that are not being met by traditional financial products.
Honorable Mention: “A Small Shop Window,” by Rana Pandey of India.
From the Photographer: A man looks out through a small window in his shop while a woman enters through an adjacent lane. The owner of the shop uses various services like electricity and telephone cables that let him run his shop and finance himself.
What the Judges Said: “The image feels somehow lonely. This is poetic: It says something about being a solitary worker, and about how hard such small businessmen have to labor to have their own business.” - Corinne Dufka
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: In India, there are more than 1.5 million micro, small, and medium enterprises that employ more than 9 million people. There are current efforts underway to “digitize” mom and pop shops, which comprise many of these small businesses, by enabling them to accept electronic payments. While millions of Indians are gaining access to an electronic financial transaction for the first time, they need a reason to transact with the new digital tools they are receiving, especially for everyday purchases at corner stores. Fewer than six percent of merchants in the country accept digital payments, so increasing this percentage will be critical for new financial account usage.
Honorable Mention: “The Worker,” by Mohammad Rakibul Hasan of Bangladesh.
From the Photographer: Asgar Mia works in a small re-rolling industry. Small industries are rapidly growing in Bangladesh and facilitating many job opportunities for unemployed people.
What the Judges Said: “It stops you right in your tracks.” - Nicole Crowder
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: In Bangladesh, 31% of adults have financial accounts, but many Bangladeshis still rely on cash. Only 22% of account holders saved with their accounts, and just 1% paid school fees with a financial account. That means that many workers receiving wages run the risk of having their life savings lost, stolen, or destroyed in a crisis. Switching to digital transactions - rather than physical cash - could help many low-income workers protect themselves against these risks.
Honorable Mention: “Volcanes,” by Luis Sanchez Davilla of Spain. From the Photographer: This woman is drying materials for Panama hats in Ecuador.
Why it’s Relevant to Financial Inclusion: In Latin America and the Caribbean, 39% of adults have a financial account. Ecuador is slightly outperforming its peers, with 46% of adults having an account, and 40% of women having an account. Fourteen percent of adults saved at a financial institution in the past year. That means that when craftsmen, like the hat maker here, sell their products, they have a safe place to store their earnings.
To learn more about CGAP and financial inclusion, please visit www.cgap.org/about/faq