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The change in government in 1991 brought about radical economic reform, from state control to an economy led by private sector development. The reforms included decentralisation, privatisation and liberalisation of the financial sector. Liberalisation initially led to the proliferation of financial institutions in the financial sector. However, it also led to a number of bank failures, resulting in the closure of nine commercial banks since 1995. Access to financial services by the majority of Zambian's was further constrained by the closure of unprofitable rural branches by commercial banks, the raising of minimum account balances and the introduction of bank charges, as well as the closure of a number of Government owned financial institutions specifically set up to address the needs of low income households and the rural poor. These developments have resulted in a financial system that focuses on meeting the needs of the corporate sector and working class elite. This paper traces how the Government's liberalisation policy for the financial sector has resulted in decreased access to financial services by low income households and the rural poor.


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