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Tiny Loans Big Questions: Client Protection in Mobile Consumer Credit

Very small instant consumer loans have ballooned from 11 deployments in 2011, to 52 in 2016, with a particular concentration in East Africa. In just a few years, through models such as M-Shwari, M-Pawa, Tala and Airtel Money, tens of millions of people have borrowed tiny amounts over their phones. These services represent an enormous increase in formal financial inclusion. They address a fundamental consumer need previously unavailable to lower income people from the formal financial system: the need for very short term money management tools to cope with income and expense volatility. While they are in many ways a boon, they also contain, and in some cases heighten, risks for their users.

This brief enumerates and discusses emerging consumer risks posed by these products, using the Client Protection Principles as an organizing framework. It is hoped this lens will assist the mobile financial sector to articulate and build a consensus about responsible practices in mobile finance.

Centre for Financial Inclusion
The Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion (CFI) engages and challenges the industry to better serve, protect and empower clients. We develop insights, advocate on behalf of clients and collaborate with stakeholders to achieve a comprehensive vision for financial inclusion. We are dedicated to enabling 3 billion people who are left out of – or poorly served by – the financial sector to improve their lives.

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