Financial inclusion or inclusive financing is the delivery of financial services at affordable costs to sections of disadvantaged and low-income segments of society, in contrast to financial exclusion where those services are not available or affordable. "Financial" refers to all types of financial services, including savings, payments and credit from all types of formal financial institutions. An estimated 2 billion working-age adults globally have no access to the types of formal financial services delivered by regulated financial institutions. For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa, only 24% of adults have a bank account even though Africa's formal financial sector has grown in recent years. It is argued that as financial services can be viewed in that are significant positive externalities when more people and firms participate. The availability of financial services that meet the specific needs of users without discrimination is a key objective of financial inclusion.
The term "financial inclusion" has gained importance since the early 2000s, a result of identifying financial exclusion and its direct correlation to poverty. The United Nations defines the goals of financial inclusion as follows:
Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on 29 December 2003, said: ”The stark reality is that most poor people in the world still lack access to sustainable financial services, whether it is savings, credit or insurance. The great challenge before us is to address the constraints that exclude people from full participation in the financial sector. Together, we can and must build inclusive financial sectors that help people improve their lives.” More recently, Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) Executive Director Alfred Hannig highlighted on 24 April 2013 progress in financial inclusion during the IMF-World Bank 2013 Spring Meetings: "Financial inclusion is no longer a fringe subject. It is now recognized as an important part of the mainstream thinking on economic development based on country leadership."
The UN aims to increase financial inclusion of the poor by developing appropriate financial products for them and increasing awareness on available financial services and strengthening financial literacy, particularly among women. The UN's financial inclusion product is financed by the United Nations Development Programme.