Behind a $16 Million Gates Give for Financial Inclusion Efforts in Pakistan

Gates’ $16 million gift was announced at the International Branchless Banking Conference. The Foundation, along with the Department for International Development (DFID) signed a memorandum of understanding that committed both the agency and Gates to helping create the Pakistan Centre for Digital Financial Inclusion.

Karandaaz Pakistan will take the lead on the project. Karandaaz, set up as a special-purpose vehicle by the DFID, is a relatively new organization specializing in job creation and economic growth. The organization will use the Gates commitment to create sustainable digital financial institutions across the country, focusing on improving banking access for individuals and businesses alike. The overarching goals here are to create jobs and increase incomes and economic stability in poor populations.

Karandaaz, the DFID, and Gates hope that the digital finance platform will reach over 70 percent of Pakistan’s adult population, including half of the women living in rural areas, by the year 2024.

This latest announcement makes Pakistan one of the UK's largest recipients when it comes to economic development investments. Gates’ $16 million pledge also makes it the largest give to date out of the foundation’s Financial Services for the Poor program, which awards grants for expanding financial services access to unbanked populations. The program currently focuses on increasing economic stability, generating increased economy-wide efficiencies, and decreasing the amount of money poor people must spend on financial transactions.

Though Gates doesn’t have a specific product or distribution channel to which it pays special funding attention, it does award financial inclusion grants with digital leanings. This makes sense, since accessibility is a key principle in Gates’ financial inclusion giving. Recent large grants made out of its Financial Services for the Poor program include: 

  • $12 million to the Institute for Financial Management Research. The grant supports the launch of the Delhi-based Centre for Digital Financial Inclusion, which will increase financial services access through mobile phones and other digitally based methods.
  • $5.9 million to the UN Capital Development Fund. This grant was awarded to support an interconnected, digital financial services system in Uganda.
  • $4 million to bKash Limited. The grant was provided as ongoing support of bKash’s scalable mobile money platform, which allows poor people living in Bangladesh the ability to transfer and receive money using their mobile phones. 

So far this year, Gates has committed nearly $30 million toward the support of financial inclusion programs in Asia and Africa. 

Related: Gates Foundation: Grants for Global Development