What's the Citi Foundation Doing That Improves Economic Empowerment?

The Citi Foundation firmly believes that financial inclusion is the key to job creation and economic development around the globe. In 2011, the Foundation funded a study in Madrid to prove that it was on to something. The Foundation's Financial Capability and Asset Building Program even granted over $25 million in 2011 and $20 million in 2010 to help increase financial inclusion among marginalized populations. All of which is well and good, but it remains unclear as to how financial inclusion relates to job creation.

Understanding the Citi Foundation's Financial Capability and Asset Building Program is as difficult as understanding the fine print in their credit agreements. The Foundation states that over half of the world's population does not use formal financial services for either saving or borrowing money. They refer to this population as the "unbanked."

The Citi Foundation's goal is to educate this unbanked population about financial products, tailoring this education to their specific needs. However, Citi is finding that even as the unbanked and lower income populations of the world increase their knowledge of financial products, they continue to have a "limited capability to understand options and terms of use of available products," which, in turn can "further hinder their economic stability." 

When I read that Citi is educating people on financial products, all I think about is that they are educating people on Citi's financial products and not necessarily financial issues and products in general. It sounds more like a win-win situation for Citi.

I know Citigroup (the company) has been traveling  a pretty rocky road the past few years. Not that that rough road isn't justified. No one's trying to discount the Citi Foundation's good work. However, the Foundation draws a lot of attention to how much money it has granted with little facts to back up what good they've actually done. 

The Foundation has yet to explain, in examples or plain English, how financial inclusion equals economic empowerment and development.

Do they mean that the more people use banks, the more jobs they create, which then leads to economic development? Or do they mean the more people use banks, the better their prospects for finding a job? And are they proposing that if the unbanked become the banked through Citi's financial inclusion programs, those individuals will be more likely to experience economic security? Like I said, too many questions, and not enough answers.