Types of Research
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This technical report is an analysis of current trends and theories in consumer protection from both a legal and economic perspective. Traditional economic theory, especially the work of Akerlof (1970), suggests there are situations in which consumer protection is necessary to maintain healthy markets. Still, debate continues on the best methods of consumer protection. As an example, some economists argue for information disclosure, others paternalism, and still others so-called soft- or libertarian-paternalism. Any of these forms can be acheived through different bodies including government agencies, consumer associations, self-regulation, statutory and non-statutory standards bodies, ombudsman and professional organizations. Finally, the transition to digital economies has presented new challenges for consumer protection including security, privacy, complex liability chains, and the complexity of the products themselves.
Many low- and middle-income countries remain challenged by a financial infrastructure gap, evidenced by very low numbers of bank branches and automated teller machines (ATMs) (e.g., 2.9 branches per 100,000 people in Ethiopia versus 13.5 in India and 32.9 in the United States (U.S.) and 0.5 ATMs per 100,000 people in Ethiopia versus 19.7 in India and 173 in the U.S.) (The World Bank 2015a; 2015b). Furthermore, only an estimated 62 percent of adults globally have a banking account through a formal financial institution, leaving over 2 billion adults unbanked (Demirgüç–Kunt et al., 2015). While conventional banks have struggled to extend their networks into low-income and rural communities, digital financial services (DFS) have the potential to extend financial opportunities to these groups (Radcliffe & Voorhies, 2012). In order to utilize DFS however, users must convert physical cash to electronic money which requires access to cash-in, cash-out (CICO) networks—physical access points including bank branches but also including “branchless banking" access points such as ATMs, point-of-sale (POS) terminals, agents, and cash merchants. As mobile money and branchless banking expand, countries are developing new regulations to govern their operations (Lyman, Ivatury, & Staschen, 2006; Lyman, Pickens, & Porteous, 2008; Ivatury & Mas, 2008), including regulations targeting aspects of the different CICO interfaces.
EPAR's work on CICO networks consists of five components. First, we summarize types of recent mobile money and branchless banking regulations related to CICO networks and review available evidence on the impacts these regulations may have on markets and consumers. In addition to this technical report we developed a short addendum (EPAR 355a) which includes a description of findings on patterns around CICO regulations over time. Another addendum (EPAR 355b) summarizes trends in exclusivity regulations including overall trends, country-specific approaches to exclusivity, and a table showing how available data on DFS adoption from FII and GSMA might relate to changes in exclusivity policies over time. A third addendum (EPAR 355c) explores trends in CICO network expansion with a focus on policies seeking to improve access among more remote or under-served populations. Lastly, we developed a database of CICO regulations, including a regulatory decision options table which outlines the key decisions that countries can make to regulate CICOs and a timeline of when specific regulations related to CICOs were introduced in eight focus countries, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Donor countries and multilateral organizations may pursue multiple goals with foreign aid, including supporting low-income country development for strategic/security purposes (national security, regional political stability) and for short-and long-term economic interests (market development and access, local and regional market stability). While the literature on the effectiveness of aid in supporting progress on different indicators of country development is inconclusive, donors are interested in evidence that aid funding is not permanent but rather contributes to a process by which recipient countries develop to a point that they are economically self-sufficient. In this report, we review the literature on measures of country self-sufficiency and descriptive evidence from illustrative case studies to explore conditions associated with transitions toward self-sufficiency in certain contexts.
A “new wave” of digital credit products has entered the digital financial services (DFS) market in recent years. These products differ from traditional credit by offering loans to borrowers that can be applied for, approved, and disbursed remotely (often without any brick-and-mortar infrastructure), automatically (generally minimizing or eliminating person-to-person interaction), and instantly (often in less than 72 hours). Digital credit also increasingly considers creditworthiness by using alternative (nontraditional) data—ranging from mobile phone activity to utility payments and social media data—potentially allowing for loans to populations previously unable to access bank credit. Two EPAR reports review the characteristics of digital credit offerings in India, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda, and regulations specific to digital credit in Africa and Asia.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, 12% of adults now report having a mobile money account, representing over a quarter of the share of those who have any kind of financial account at all. As mobile money expands, there is interest in how regulatory frameworks develop to support digital financial services (DFS) and also support broader financial inclusion. In theory, protecting consumers from risk, and ensuring that they have the information and understanding required to make informed decisions, may increase their confidence and trust in mobile money systems, leading to higher adoption and usage rates. However, consumer protection regulations may also carry certain trade-offs in terms of cost, usage, and innovation. The challenge, according to proponents of consumer protection, is to develop regulations that promote access and innovation, yet still offer an acceptable level of consumer protection. We review the literature on consumer protection institutions and regulatory documents for DFS (particularly mobile money) in 22 developing countries, and identify examples of specific consumer protection regulations relevant to mobile money in each country.
In this report, we analyze the evidence that improved and expanded access to financial services can be a pathway out of poverty in Bangladesh and Tanzania. A brief background review of finance and poverty reduction evidence at the country, household, and individual level emphasizes the importance of a functioning financial system and the need to remove individual and household barriers to capital accumulation. We follow with an in-depth literature review on studies that link poverty reduction in Bangladesh or Tanzania with one or more of five financial intervention categories: remittances; government subsidies; conditional and unconditional cash transfers; credit; and combination programs. The resulting empirical evidence from these sources reveal a high share (61%) of positive reported associations between a financial intervention and outcome measure related to our five chosen financial interventions. The remaining studies found insignificant or mixed associations, but very few (3 out of 56) indicate that access to a financial mechanism was associated with worsened poverty. The heterogeneity of study types and interventions makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the efficacy of one intervention over another, and more research is needed on whether such approaches constitute a durable, long-term exit from poverty.
Common aid allocation formulas incorporate measures of income per capita but not measures of poverty, likely based on the assumption that rising average incomes are associated with reduced poverty. If declining poverty is the outcome of interest, however, the case of Nigeria illustrates that such aid allocation formulas could lead to poorly targeted or inefficient aid disbursements. Using data from the World Bank and the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics, we find that while the relationship between economic growth and poverty in Nigeria varies depending on the time period studied, overall from 1992-2009 Nigeria’s poverty rate has only declined by 6% despite a 70% increase in per capita gross domestic product (GDP). A review of the literature indicates that income inequality, the prominence of the oil sector, unemployment, corruption, and poor education and health in Nigeria may help to explain the pattern of high ongoing poverty rates in the country even in the presence of economic growth. Our analysis is limited by substantial gaps in the availability of quality data on measures of poverty and economic growth in Nigeria, an issue also raised in the literature we reviewed, but our findings support arguments that economic growth should not be assumed to lead to poverty reduction and that the relationship between these outcomes likely depends on contextual factors.
Household survey data are a key source of information for policy-makers at all levels. In developing countries, household data are commonly used to target interventions and evaluate progress towards development goals. The World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study - Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) are a particularly rich source of nationally-representative panel data for six Sub-Saharan African countries: Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda. To help understand how these data are used, EPAR reviewed the existing literature referencing the LSMS-ISA and identified 415 publications, working papers, reports, and presentations with primary research based on LSMS-ISA data. We find that use of the LSMS-ISA has been increasing each year since the first survey waves were made available in 2009, with several universities, multilateral organizations, government offices, and research groups across the globe using the data to answer questions on agricultural productivity, farm management, poverty and welfare, nutrition, and several other topics.
The literature on poverty’s causes and cures in developing countries posits a variety of contributing factors. Most researchers acknowledge that a sustained exit from poverty is complex and no single causal pathway from poverty to non-poverty exists. In this review, we present a summary framework for categorizing the various theorized pathways out of poverty, and evaluate the empirical evidence for which interventions and resulting outcomes are most frequently and most strongly associated with poverty alleviation. We conducted a literature review on pathways out of poverty for low-income households in developing countries and identified and categorized general strategies and outcomes demonstrated to be empirically associated with poverty alleviation. We organized the general strategies into four asset groups that could be targeted to alleviate poverty: human, natural, built / financial, and social / political. Much of the literature presents positive results on poverty alleviation, but it is difficult to compare across studies because many of the studies were conducted in different countries and at different scales, and use a variety of outcome measures.
This report reviews and summarizes the existing evidence on the impact of access to financial services/products on measures of production, income and wealth, consumption and food security, and resilience for smallholder farmers and other rural customers and their households in Sub-Saharan Africa. This study covers four main types of financial products/services: 1) credit; 2) savings; 3) insurance; 4) transactional products. We also review the very limited evidence on the effectiveness of bundling these products/services together and of combining them with other offerings such as trainings or support for access to markets, and of providing them via digital channels. We note when financial products/services have been specifically designed to serve the needs of rural customers or smallholder farmers, since the needs of these groups are often very different from those of other stakeholders.