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> Posted by Virginia Moore, Communications Director, CFI
Last week, the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion (CFI) participated in LendIt USA, an annual conference that brings together leaders and startups in fintech, lending, and venture capital to discuss trends, innovations, and the future of the industry.
So, what were we doing there? We attended to help introduce what we do to this audience of over 5,000 people, partnering with LendIt organizers to launch its very first financial inclusion track. CFI managing director Elisabeth Rhyne spoke on a panel about responsible credit along with representatives from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Marketplace Lending Association, LendStreet, and AEO. Championing the Smart Campaign and consumer protections, Beth brought a global perspective on what responsible credit looks like in practice. She also debated the elephant in the room—or as she put it, “the dead cat on the table:” interest rates. Our director of research Sonja Kelly also moderated a lively session on how smartphones in emerging markets are expanding access to credit with executives from Branch, Cignifi, Juvo, and PayJoy. We’ll have more on these sessions soon.
It was exciting and satisfying to see so much interest in financial inclusion from conference attendees who may not readily know the definition of financial inclusion, appreciate its value, or recognize how they’re contributing to it.
What Is the Value of Financial Inclusion to Fintech and Investor Communities?
> Posted by Jason Loughnane, Special Projects Manager, DAWN
In 2011, a SIM card in Myanmar cost $1,500 and mobile phones were used by less than 5 percent of the population. Following the entry of two foreign mobile operators in 2011, the price of a SIM card dropped to $1.50. Today, over 90 percent of the country’s population has a cell phone, and over 80 percent of those users have smartphones. And yet, only 6 percent of the population uses a formal financial institution, making the country ripe for adoption of mobile financial services.
> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Associate, CFI
Coinciding with this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, GSMA’s Mobile Money for the Unbanked (MMU) program released its fourth annual ‘State of the Industry Report on Mobile Financial Services.’ I talked with Jennifer Frydrych, Insights Coordinator for the MMU program and one of the authors on the report, about the project’s findings. The conversation touched on new markets, shifts in the mobile payments mix, successes with products beyond payments, the main hurdles facing mobile money ecosystems, and more.
1. The mobile money industry has grown rapidly in recent years. Can you bring us up to date with some of the growth figures and dynamics?
In the past five years, mobile money services have spread across much of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. At the end of 2014, there were 255 live mobile money services across 89 markets, 36 more than in 2013. Mobile money is now available in 61 percent of developing markets globally. In terms of adoption and usage growth, 75 million additional mobile money accounts were opened globally in 2014, bringing the total number of registered accounts to 299 million. Importantly, account activity increased faster than account registration in 2014, and the total number of active mobile money accounts is now 103 million (up from 73 million in 2013). An increasing number of services are reaching scale: 21 services now have more than one million active accounts.
2. As of the last State of the Industry report, half of all live mobile money deployments were in sub-Saharan Africa. How has this distribution changed? What were some new or emerging markets of the past year?
There were 22 new services launches in 2014, of which half occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. The mobile money industry in sub-Saharan Africa continues to grow, and the region still accounts for just over half of all live services globally, and 60 percent of all active accounts. Much of this success can be attributed to East Africa; however we are now seeing exciting growth in mobile money uptake and active usage in West Africa.
> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Associate, CFI
On Monday, Myanmar launched its first domestic online payment network. The payment platform centers on a partnership between 2C2P, a Southeast Asian payment services company with a history of digital finance work in the country, and Myanmar Payment Union (MPU), the national payment network set-up by the country’s central bank. The new platform allows MPU cardholders, currently 900,000 individuals and counting, to make online purchases in-country. The e-pay advancement is a promising step for financial inclusion in the country, which continues its recovery from economic isolation and military rule.
The Myanmar Payment Union, the country’s only domestic card-based payment system, launched in 2011, encompasses 20 banking partners, including three state-owned banks. In the time since MPU introduced banking cards and ATMs, card adoption has increased, with enormous growth in 2014, from roughly 200,000 cardholders early in the year to the current level of 900,000. With the new online payment system, businesses now need to sign onto the service via one of MPU’s partner banks, which will provide technical support and consultation throughout the process. On both the business and consumer end, achieving the necessary platform traction will require significant awareness building – quelling fundamental questions like: will my payment actually reach the merchant?
> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI
The World Economic Forum on East Asia was held last week in Myanmar. Following the country’s recent political and economic changes, the forum was Myanmar’s first international meeting that spanned leaders from industry, government, academia, and civil society. The three themes of this year’s gathering were Inspiring Inclusion Transformation, Realizing Regional Integration, and Scaling Regional Solutions for Global Resilience. A few of the forum’s sessions focused directly on financial inclusion. These included Moving from a Cash to a Banked Economy, and From Social Protection to Financial Inclusion. Video recordings of these, as well as all of the forum’s sessions, can be found here.
Myanmar today may be the nearest country in the world to a cash-only economy. Only 10 percent of the population has access to formal financial services, though if this year is any indication, changes to the country’s financial services and economic landscapes are coming, and rapidly.
This past September MasterCard became the first international payments network to issue a license to a Myanmar bank, enabling Co-Operative Bank Ltd. (one of the country’s largest banks) to offer MasterCard-branded cards to its customers. Since September, similar licenses have been issued to four more banks, and the ensuing five bank network of ATMs, currently totaling 140 facilities, now accept MasterCard payment cards. Beyond this new service opportunity for many of Myanmar’s banked, the development allows tourists and business travelers in the country to withdraw local currency using international MasterCard cards. 2012 was a record-breaking tourism year for Myanmar, as over one million visited the country. New point-of-sale merchant terminals for cashless payments are also in the works. With its first MasterCard terminal opening this past September, the payments company is working with in-country banks to roll out upwards of 500 terminals at restaurants, hotels, and other retail outlets by the end of the year.