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Financial Services for the Poor

Digital Financial Services Reference Guide



The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Financial Services for the Poor Program (FSP) believes that effective financial services are paramount in the fight against poverty. Nonetheless, today more than 1.7 billion people live outside the formal financial sector. Increasing their access to high quality, affordable financial services will accelerate the well-being of households, communities, and economies in the developing world. One of the most promising ways to deliver these financial services to the poor – profitably and at scale – is by using digital payment platforms.

Together with partner organizations, FSP has developed a reference guide as a public good to assist regulators who are exploring policy options for enabling the development of inclusive digital financial services. We appreciate policymakers’ responsibility to safeguard the stability and integrity of the financial system and protect consumers against harm as markets open to innovation.

View Inclusive Digital Financial Services: A Reference Guide for Regulators

Topics included in the guide include the following:

  • licensing
  • prudential regulation and supervision
  • competition issues
  • integrity and security
  • agent regulation and supervision
  • consumer protection

Each country’s framework for the supervision and regulation of financial services must reflect the needs of its economy, legal system, and citizens, especially because of differences in the development of financial systems. Consequently, the reference guide does not recommend the adoption of a particular product, service, or distribution channel nor does it constitute legal advice.

Instead, the guide summarizes key regulations from jurisdictions around the world as examples of diverse approaches to promoting digital financial inclusion. FSP and the foundation’s partners have used this guide to support discussions with local regulators, central banks, and other authorities. We are making the guide publicly available to support global and regional dialogue on the importance of proportionate, risk-based regulation to help enable economies that benefit the poor.

This resource has been created in consultation with individuals from the following organizations, in alphabetical order:

  • the Alliance for Financial Inclusion
  • the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)
  • the United Nations Capital Development Fund
  • the Office of the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development
  • the World Bank

Principal drafting of this resource was led by consulting firm BFA Global. Contributors offered advice and insight in their personal capacities. Any opinions expressed in this resource do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or any of the aforementioned organizations.


This work is provided as-is, without any warranty of any kind, and for non-commercial, informational use only. Any further use may require the consent of third-party content owners. The materials are not intended to convey or constitute legal advice. You should not act upon any such information without first seeking qualified professional counsel on your specific matter.

As we intend to update the guide in the future, comments may be sent by email to

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