In recent years, the international community has begun to focus on financial inclusion as part of a broader strategy to reduce poverty, encourage economic development, and promote stability and security. For the purposes of this paper, the term “financial inclusion” refers to the provision of accessible, usable, and affordable financial services, either through the formal or informal financial sector, to underserved populations. This includes the estimated 2.5 billion “unbanked” individuals worldwide who lack access to a formal bank account, the vast majority of whom reside in developing countries.1 Financial inclusion also applies to “underbanked” communities, where people lack reliable access to or are unable to afford the associated costs of financial services. In the US alone, 50.9 million adults are considered underbanked and have relied on alternative financial services in the past 12 months, including payday lenders, pawn shops, or check-cashing services.2 The international focus on financial inclusion has coincided with increased attention to anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) frameworks as crucial tools for advancing stability and security objectives and for curbing criminal and violent extremist activity.
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