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Promoting Inclusive Markets and Financial Systems

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Insights on The Inequality Debate from #SEEP2016

The wealth of the richest people in the world continues to disproportionately increase by the billions. As a result, today’s global economy is unequal, only really working for the few at the very top. During the SEEP Network Annual Conference, some of the questions on the attendees' minds were: how can we measure this inequality and its impact? More importantly, how can we combat this inequality so that disenfranchised communities have the opportunities and resources they need to make a living?

The opening plenary session at the 2016 SEEP Annual Conference, held on September 20, brought these questions to light. Naturally, the large room of inclusive market development experts, practitioners, and innovators agreed: Global economic inequality is real, and the divide between rich and poor is growing.

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Gawain Kripke, Director, Policy & Research, Oxfam America speaks at The Inequality Debate, hosted at the 2016 SEEP Annual Conference.

What the Data Says

An Oxfam report, An Economy for the 1%, fleshes out this global inequality crisis. Oxfam’s data shows that the richest 1% now have more wealth than the rest of the world combined. Panelists at the SEEP Conference Opening Plenary challenged prior held beliefs that rising inequality is an inevitable consequence to the rising tide of economic growth that’s meant to lift all boats. As they dove into the different factors that contribute to and entrench inequality around the world, the panelists highlighted that the solution must be multifaceted and focused on local contexts. The root of the problem could be anything — from a rigged regulatory system to an exploited environmental ecosystem — but in any case there are high costs of not addressing it.

What Next?

The panelists also raised questions about what to do next. Is financial inclusion enough to address global economic inequality? Is access to capital enough? How do we target decreasing the gender gap while tackling broader inequality? How do we address corruption and rent-seeking within the governments that are tasked to resolve this inequality?

As the global development community continues to rally behind the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we have a responsibility to ask these questions. As explained by Chemonics’ Kelly Cronen, addressing inequality “isn’t just the latest do-gooder development fad—it reflects the reality that creating a more equal society actually leads to better development outcomes and greater stability.”

This discussion carried through the rest of the 2016 SEEP Conference, where Chemonics’ Economic Growth and Trade Practice led two peer learning sessions that explored two of many paths toward greater equality – digital financial services and inclusive market development. The importance of tackling inequality, as introduced during the opening plenary, laid the foundation for nearly every conversation during the conference, and is at the root of every solution we pursue beyond the conference’s hallways.


A communications associate at Chemonics and graduate of the London School of Economics, Michelle works at the crossroads of media and international development while nurturing a passion for all things diaspora engagement, disability inclusion, and sub-Saharan Africa.

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