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"Financial inclusion" has hit the headlines in SA in the wake of a scandal over the distribution of social grants. Mounting evidence suggests the controversial company at the centre of the storm, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and its ancillary firms, targetted grantees to "cross sell" other financial products. The company has consistently denied acting illegally and one of its key investors, Allan Gray, asserts that no wrongdoing has been formally proven. Significantly, both have invoked the idea that CPS is delivering "financial inclusion" — a term that has come in for a fair amount of abuse over the past few decades. "Financial inclusion" typically encompasses providing formal financial services — such as banking, loans and insurance — to poor people who have traditionally lacked access to them. The virtues of financial inclusion have long been an article of faith among policy makers. But in a country like SA, which has a relatively poor record of consumer and data protection, and...

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