Mastercard Labs for Financial Inclusion

The seventh in a series of Mastercard Innovation Hubs, Mastercard Labs for Financial Inclusion is the first Lab in Africa and the first to focus exclusively on financial inclusion.

With the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lab seeks to impact more than 100 million people by bringing together Mastercard's innovation and global financial inclusion capabilities under one roof, combining these with local expertise and insight.

Mastercard Labs for Financial Inclusion is part of Mastercard's broader commitment to connect 500 million people previously excluded from formal financial services through the use of public-private partnerships with governments, the private sector and non-governmental organizations. We strongly believe that together we can improve access to and use of formal financial services, which will ultimately deliver more inclusive growth and empower people.

What we do

We do not simply repurpose products off the shelf. Instead, we take Mastercard's proven innovation process and work hand-in-hand with people on the ground. This allows us to learn quickly and, ultimately, to create new products and services that fulfill an unmet need.

Put simply, we are focused on one of the most pressing global issues today, which is also an integral part of Mastercard's business objectives: connecting the two billion adults currently without access to formal financial services.

Scaling solutions

We will prototype to ideas, incubate selected ideas and scale proven solutions across Africa and other emerging markets. And if a partner already has a concept that simply needs scale, we will leverage our innovation processes, brand and network to achieve results.

Working with cross-sector partners

We work with partners across sectors: NGOs; foundations; trusts; financial institutions; academic institutions, technology companies; mobile network operators; government ministries and institutions; research organizations and start-ups.

Taking a partnership approach, we generate ideas and address challenges and opportunities in agriculture, education, health, trade and entrepreneurship, energy, water, sanitation and habitat. Depending on the innovation, we may work with one partner or multiple partners.

Want to learn more about partnering?

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Mastercard Labs for Financial Inclusion important?

With two billion adults living without access to mainstream financial tools and services, there is an urgent need to speed up the creation of commercially viable products and services for this audience on a global scale. 

Why is Mastercard Labs for Financial Inclusion located in Africa?

We believe that this region represents some of the most successful countries in terms of implementation and reach of digital financial services. While the lab is based in Kenya, we anticipate that it will have both a regional and a global impact.

How much money is the Gates Foundation contributing and how will it be used?

Through an $11 million grant over three years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lab will generate new ideas with local entrepreneurs, governments and other stakeholders across Africa, and rapidly move from concept to reality.

What is the Labs proven innovation methodology?

We have implemented a focused, practiced and proven process that includes broad ideation as well as technical and business evaluation leading to prototyping and pilot execution and finally execution. At ever step, we combine Mastercard best practices gained from operating in the payments arena for nearly 50 years with leading-edge technologies.

What does it mean to be financially excluded?

When you are excluded, you don't have access to the basic financial tools we take for granted like saving or borrowing money or getting insurance. It means being stuck in a cash-based economy that makes you vulnerable to increased crime, inconvenience and higher costs.

What's Mastercard's strategy for meeting the challenge of financial inclusion?

Our approach to financial inclusion is not through corporate social responsibility or philanthropy. We address it by leveraging our existing digital payments technology and applying that through public and private partnerships.

What does a future where more people are financially included look like?

The future is a global economy that is closer to being truly global because we're more connected digitally and less dependent on cash. Increasing financial inclusion:

  • expands the middle class
  • generates equal opportunities
  • increases social engagement and economic mobility
  • narrows income inequality
  • empowers people