The World Bank and the GSMA, the global body representing nearly 800 mobile operators and 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, today partnered to help achieve Universal Financial Access (UFA) by the year 2020 via mobile financial services.

GSMA says it aims to support the creation of 500 million mobile money accounts over the course of the UFA initiative to reduce the number of people who have no access to formal financial services-estimated to be some 2 billion working-age adults globally.

Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA said,”Our commitment to support the creation of 500 million mobile money accounts reflects the scale of ambition needed to successfully close the global gap in access to financial services. We look forward to working closely with the World Bank Group and its UFA partners to ensure the conditions exist so that inclusive services, such as mobile money, can reach new heights.”

GSMA will work with 32 UFA partners across banks, payment and technology companies, telecommu­nication firms, microfinance institutions, regulators, and industry associations. UFA partners deepen reach in key markets, leveraging a range of business models and expertise. GSMA and the rest will work to boost engagement with the private sector to add millions of new account holders through its investment and advisory work with financial intermediaries and other partners.

Existing IFC and World Bank operations are projected to help reach 656 million new account holders by 2020, keeping the institution on track toward the overall goal of enabling access to those who are currently unbanked.

“It is great news that the GSMA is helping to close the gap in access to mobile phones – and mobile money accounts. This will be instrumental in bringing financial services to rural communities,” said Kristalina Georgieva, Chief Executive Officer for the World Bank. “The private sector brings the kind of innovation and investment needed to connect the remaining 2 billion people currently left out of the financial system.”

The UFA 2020 goal – recognizing financial access as a basic building block to managing an individual’s financial life – aims to provide all adults worldwide with access to a transaction account to store money and to send and receive payments. Access to a transaction account is a first step toward broader financial inclusion, which helps poor families escape poverty and afford such essential social services as water, electricity, housing, education and health care. Access to financing can help small firms and medium-sized enterprises reduce risks, invest for growth and expand operations.

Martin Holtmann, Manager for IFC’s Micro Digital Group said achieving universal access is an ambitious goal – and one that can only be achieved with strong part­­­­nerships.

“It requires traditional financial institutions, telecommunication and technology firms to work together. Digital and mobile technology can bring financial services to millions of people currently not included in the formal financial system, more easily and cheaply than traditional banking.”