Design Thinking for Financial Inclusion

Insights by pcl.
6 min readDec 13, 2019

“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it” — Albert Einstein.

Once upon a time, social workers from a development agency arrived at a remote village. They found that there were no boreholes, and women walked miles to the stream for water. To fix this problem, the social workers recommended the sinking of a borehole at an easily accessible location within the village — which was promptly done. Yet the women kept going to the stream. Finally, the social workers bothered to ask the women questions and found that while the borehole was a nice thing, they preferred the stream because the journey afforded time with other women and time away from the rigours of family life.

To solve problems effectively, we must understand the perspective of the people we are trying to help. Many times, when we assess a problem, we make assumptions about the situation and end-user and don’t try to validate them. Design thinking involves understanding the user, questioning assumptions, and redefining problems. That way, we can provide solutions that don’t just sound good to us but meet the users at their points of need.


According to the World Bank’s 2017 Global Findex, individuals are financially included if they have “access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs, transactions, payments, savings, credit, and insurance.” It follows that a financially excluded person lacks this access and therefore enjoys none of the supposed benefits. But what is the nature of this exclusion? Are these services desired in the first place? Is exclusion a matter of choice or a result of systemic disadvantages? Are there any unintended consequences to worry about? Before pushing out “We should all be included” messages, it’s important to understand why people are and remain financially excluded.


Ego Kudi is a 28 year-old man who sells plantain chips in Lagos traffic for 14 hours every day, leaving after traffic dies down at 10 pm. Assuming he makes a revenue of 15,000 naira, he can’t go to a bank at that time to deposit money. Even if he could, he would not want to go back at 5.30 am…

Insights by pcl.

Phillips Consulting Limited (pcl.) is a leading business and management consulting firm serving clients across Africa.