Using information as a driver of change: lessons from finscope South Africa

FinScope, a research tool developed by FinMark Trust, is a nationally representative survey of how individuals source their income and manage their financial lives in South Africa. Created in 2002, FinScope arose in response to the dearth of data on financial inclusion in South Africa and has effectively served to fill this information gap ever since. FinMark Trust’s analysis led it to understand that lack of information causes sub-optimal decision-making, by policy makers, advocacy organisation and financial service providers.

The FinScope survey was piloted in 2002 with the objective to increase evidence-based policy and decision making in the financial sector. The survey measured the levels of access to and uptake of financial products (both formal and informal) across income ranges and other demographics. The objectives and the content of FinScope surveys, in South Africa and elsewhere, have widened over time to reflect financial market development and to incorporate analysis of the cultural and attitudinal factors influencing the financial behaviour and needs of the population.

FinScope surveys have an ambitious range of objectives, from tracking access and usage to highlighting product development opportunities and providing insights for policy reform and the regulatory framework. By providing a means to measure financial inclusion, FinScope has a pathway connecting to the ultimate goal and objectives of FinMark Trust. FinScope is widely perceived to have been transformative. It has become a robust methodological framework and a well-recognised brand across Africa and beyond.