There are many reasons why deeper financial development—the increase in deposits and loans but also their accessibility and improved financial sector efficiency—is good for sustainable growth in sub-Saharan Africa. For one, it helps mobilize savings and to direct funds into productive uses, for example by providing the start-up capital for the next innovative enterprise. This in turn facilitates a more efficient allocation of resources and increases overall productivity.
It also supports the creation of a larger variety of products and services, improves the management of risks, makes payments easier and helps lenders better monitor their clients. In addition, it provides instruments, such as insurance packages, and information that help households and firms to cope with negative events, ensuring more stable consumption and investment.
Given the weakening growth outlook for the region, examining all potential sources or lubricants for growth is now of particular interest. So, in our latest Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa we examine the extent to which developed, well-functioning and accessible financial institutions and markets could boost growth and what policy options would best help achieve this potential.
Good progress but significant challenges remain
To fully appreciate the potential for further financial development, take a look at the encouraging progress sub-Saharan African countries have made over the last decades.
First, the region has led the world in innovative financial services based on mobile telephones, especially in East Africa. The fast spread of systems such as M-Pesa, M-Shwari, and M-Kesho in Kenya has helped reduce transaction costs and facilitate personal transactions even in the absence of traditional financial infrastructure. Microfinance has also grown rapidly, providing services to customers at the lower end of the income distribution, and large parts of the population now have access to financial services more generally (Chart 1).