Nine out of ten Uzbeks lack formal credit access

By Ben Aris in Berlin March 24, 2024

Only one in ten Uzbeks have formal access to banking credit, according to Marie-Paule Claes, an expert from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) speaking at a seminar organised by the Central Bank of Uzbekistan on March 19.

Some 90% of Uzbekistan's adult population is currently without access to formal credit facilities, pointing to a  pressing need for financial sector reforms to enhance access to banking and credit services across the country.

Despite a noted increase in the number of Uzbek citizens taking loans from financial institutions – from 2.36% in 2017 to 7.49% in 2021 – the overall penetration remains extremely low. For women, the share is even lower and has not surpassed the 5% mark.

Bank account ownership among Uzbek citizens aged 15 and older saw a slight improvement, reaching 44.13% in 2021 from 37% in 2017. However, this growth is modest and indicates a large section of the population remains outside the formal banking system.

The seminar also shed light on the adoption of digital payment methods, which stood at 41.72% in 2021. While this represents progress, the rate among women lags at 35.86%, underscoring a gender gap in financial access. Moreover, the utilization of financial institutions or mobile money services for savings is notably low, with less than 3% of the population engaging in such practices.

Data on the use of mobile devices or internet banking in 2021 was not provided, though 2017 figures reveal that less than 7% of Uzbeks accessed their accounts through these digital means, with women accounting for just over 5% of this demographic.

The seminar's revelations call for targeted measures to bridge the significant financial access gap in Uzbekistan, with a particular focus on enhancing credit availability, promoting banking services, and encouraging the adoption of digital financial tools among the broader population, especially among women.




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