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Increasing Financial Inclusion A Focus on Women and SMEs

Increasing Financial Inclusion: A Focus on Women and SMEs

Mobilink Bank’s Ambitious Goals

Mobilink Bank is committed to boosting financial inclusion in Pakistan, with a particular focus on women and small to medium enterprises (SMEs). The bank aims to increase the proportion of female borrowers to at least 50% within the next three years.

Significance of Financial Inclusion

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the critical role financial inclusion plays in Pakistan’s banking future. Women constitute nearly half of the population, and their access to financial services is essential for sustainable development. Mobilink Bank’s recent performance reflects this priority, with a 38% growth in its women’s loan portfolio in 2023, signaling progress in financial access for women in Pakistan.

Government Initiatives and Challenges

The National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) 2015 aimed for universal financial inclusion by 2020, targeting 50% of the adult population. However, this goal was not met; only 21% of adults were financially included by 2021, far below the global average of 69%. The gender finance gap in Pakistan remains significant, standing at 34% according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Mobilink Bank’s Contributions

Mobilink Bank has been instrumental in driving financial inclusion through various initiatives. The bank’s loan portfolio is nearly PKR 59 billion, with a significant portion dedicated to the agriculture sector. In 2023, 22% of loans were disbursed to the agriculture sector, with 16% going to women or women-led agro-businesses.

Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary, COO and Interim CEO of Mobilink Bank, emphasized the bank’s dedication to empowering women, farmers, and SMEs. He highlighted the 38% increase in the women’s loan portfolio in 2023 and the goal to raise the proportion of female borrowers to 50% within three years. The “Women Inspirational Network (WIN)” program has been pivotal in this growth, providing digital and financial skills to women entrepreneurs nationwide.

Supporting SMEs

In 2023, Mobilink Bank’s SME portfolio grew by 41%. Despite the challenging macroeconomic environment, the bank continues to support SMEs through digitalization and sustainable practices. The bank’s solar financing portfolio, aimed at promoting clean energy, stands at over PKR 1.7 billion, supporting SMEs in adopting solar-powered solutions to combat power shortages and environmental challenges.

Digital Financial Services

Mobilink Bank’s mobile money platform, JazzCash, plays a crucial role in financial inclusion. With a network of nearly 250,000 agents, JazzCash serves over 44 million account holders, 30% of whom are women. Digital wallets offer significant benefits, especially for women with limited mobility, enabling them to perform financial transactions seamlessly.

Future Prospects

Chaudhary underscores the potential for digital technology to bridge financial inclusion gaps. By leveraging affordable smartphones and internet access, financial services can reach underserved populations across Pakistan. The government, stakeholders, and financial institutions must work together to harness this potential, transforming the economic landscape and empowering women and SMEs to drive the country’s growth.

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