Reaching the unbanked through branchless banking, mobile financial services
  • November 05, 2013

The Bank of the Lao PDR is focusing on branchless banking and mobile financial services, with technical support from Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P), as part of a programme named Making Access to Finance More Inclusive for Poor People (MAFIPP).

MAFIPP is a US$10 million programme funded by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), UNDP and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). The programme focuses on the rural areas and runs from 2010-17. It aims to increase access to financial services by low income households and micro-entrepreneurs and so improve sustainable income and food security for Lao households.

Under the programme, the central bank and the UNCDF held a two-day workshop last week to discuss strategies for branchless banking and mobile financial services in Laos. The workshop was designed to assist participants and their institutions to think strategically about the development of financial services suitable for poor people. Representatives from banks, telecommunications operators and the central bank attended the workshop to learn from MM4P experts about key elements of branchless banking strategies. The main focus was on building partnerships, designing products to meet unbanked needs and on developing quality agent networks to increase outreach in rural areas. Participants worked together during several group sessions and started designing potential partnerships and market-entry strategies for their institutions.

Deputy Governor of the Bank of the Lao PDR, Mr Sonexay Sitphaxay, attended the opening ceremony of the workshop. He underlined the need to develop appropriate financial services to reach unbanked people in rural areas of Laos and explained that the bank is ready to consider plans to develop the sector with interested stakeholders.

The Bank of the Lao PDR and UNCDF will select some of the companies and help them in further developing their branchless banking strategies and submitting applications to launch branchless banking and mobile financial services products for the bank's consideration and approval.

MM4P is a global programme funded by UNCDF, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and AusAID. The programme provides support to branchless and mobile financial services in a select group of Least Developed Countries to demonstrate how the correct mix of financial, technical and policy support can build a robust branchless and mobile financial services ecosystem that reaches low income people in these countries.

Source: Times Reporters in Vientiane Times