Financial Inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa

A woman watering mukau sapplings in Kenya's arid Eastern Province.
Watering mukau sapplings in Kenya's arid Eastern Province. Photo by Flore de Preneuf / World Bank, 2011.

Financial inclusion in Africa has advanced substantially in recent years. For example, Sub-Saharan Africa continues to lead the world in mobile money adoption, which is driving financial inclusion in the region. The latest data from the Global Findex 2021 shows that 33 percent of adults in the region have a mobile money account, compared to just 10 percent globally. However, the region remains behind in terms of overall account access. Only 55 percent of adults own an account with a financial institution or mobile money provider, compared to the 71 percent average for developing economies.

Gender gap in financial inclusion

Despite a significant 12 percentage point increase in overall account ownership in the region over the last six years, nearly half of the adult population still lacks access to formal financial accounts. Unfortunately, women are disproportionately impacted by this issue, with only 49 percent of women having access compared to 61 percent of men. This 12 percentage point gender gap in account ownership is among the highest in the world, closely trailing only the Middle East and North Africa. Women in the region face higher barriers to mobile phone ownership and identification documents, impacting their ability to own mobile money accounts.

Financial resilience

Financial resilience is key for people's ability to bounce back from financial setbacks such as unforeseen expenses or sudden job loss. While factors like government policies, social safety nets, and cultural norms can influence financial resilience, access to formal financial services, particularly formal savings, can contribute to it. 

Mobile money accounts have made it easier for people in Sub-Saharan Africa to save formally, with 39 percent of mobile money account holders using their accounts for savings. However, the overall share of people in the region who were able to save in any way has barely changed since 2017, going from 54 to just 56 percent. Only 14 percent of adults reported being able to access emergency funds within 30 days without any difficulty.

Digital literacy is also a barrier to using financial services. Although mobile money accounts have improved financial inclusion, one in three users still relies on family or agents to access their accounts, which exposes them to various consumer risks associated with digital financial services. Therefore, more needs to be done to address the gender gap in the region and ensure that those with accounts can use them to improve their financial resilience and overall well-being.


Key Financial Inclusion Data

Account Ownership

Percent of adults age 15+ with an account at a financial institution or through a mobile money provider
Source: Global Findex Database

Gender Gap in Account Ownership since 2011

Percent of adults age 15+ with an account. Regional data excludes high-income economies.
Source: Global Findex Database

Use of Financial Services

Percent of adults age 15+. Regional data excludes high-income economies.
Source: Global Findex Database
Learn about financial inclusion in other regions: 

East Asia & Pacific  |  Europe & Central Asia  |  Latin America & the Caribbean  |  Middle East & North Africa  |  North America  |  South Asia  |  Global