A couple uses a Commonwealth Bank of Australia automatic teller machine (ATM) in Sydney February 14, 2006. The bank, Australia's biggest mortgage lender, posted a 13 percent rise in first-half earnings, beating market forecasts and maintained its outlook for full-year growth equal or better than rival banks on February 15, 2006. Picture taken February 14, 2006. REUTERS/Will Burgess

Three quarters of the world’s poor do not have a bank account, not only because of poverty, but also because of the cost, travel distance and amount of paperwork involved in opening one, according to the World Bank.

The 2011 survey of about 15 000 people in 148 countries found that more than 75 percent of adults earning less than $2 (about R16) a day did not use a formal financial institution.

The phenomenon of being unbanked is also linked to income inequality: the richest 20 percent of adult population in developing countries are more than twice as likely to have an account as the poorest 20 percent.

The World Bank says those without access to a formal banking account have to rely on money lenders, who often charge high fees for loans. Therefore, the unbanked are less likely to start their own business or insure themselves against unexpected events.

The global figure of 75 percent of the poor being unbanked contrasted sharply with the South African reality, where 20 percent had no bank account, claimed Stuart Grobler, a senior general manager at the Banking Association of SA.

He said this was due to an intensive campaign undertaken collectively by banks to provide the Mzansi account, which was affordable, readily available and suited the needs of the previously unbanked.

Although he noted that there had been a decline in the number of Mzansi accountholders, he ascribed that to individual banks replacing the account with their advanced low-cost options.