Expanding Financial Access in Myanmar

Paul Wesley Luchtenburg
Programme Specialist

William Naing
National Officer

Aye Su Hlaing
Project Associate

Funding Challenges for the Microfinance Sector in Myanmar (April 2015)

This paper explores the funding challenges that both national and international microfinance institutions face in Myanmar. It explains how they are currently funded, identifies core constraints and presents possible solutions.

MFIs and Mobile Phones: A Powerful Combination for Myanmar? (Feb 2017)

There has been great progress in the regulatory environment allowing for unleashing the potential of mobile financial services. This paper illustrates some issues that require further clarification, and presents existing opportunities.

Market Development Facility Brief (Nov 2017)

To address the systemic market failures in funding the microfinance sector, UNCDF Myanmar takes the strategic initiative to set up a market-transformational mechanisms, known as the Market Development Facility. This document provides an overview of the (MDF), including the problems it seeks to address, the interventions it proposes, and the impact it delivers.

EFA is a country programme that designed to accelerate the financial inclusion in Myanmar. A central objective of EFA is to support the government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Myanmar) with the implementation of the National Financial Inclusion Roadmap 2014-2020 (Roadmap), the highest-level policy document on financial inclusion in Myanmar.

The targeted outcomes by 2020 can be summarized as being:

  • Increase the access to formal financial products from 30% to 48%
  • Increase the adults with more than one product from 6% to 17%
  • 830,000 target clients (women-led enterprises, small-scale farmers, MSME, low income, youth and poor) are able to have a full range of affordable, quality, effective and responsible financial services

To achieve these outcomes, EFA contributes to:

  1. Strengthening the policy and regulatory environment by taking the role of Roadmap Secretariat support, including the capacity building of the regulators and government counterparts​
  2. Strengthening the capacity of selected market participants (microfinance institutions, digital finance service providers and other financial service providers) by applying different UNCDF funding architectures (conditional grant, loan and loan guarantee) and providing technical assistance according to the global best practice
  3. Knowledge management and sharing, by continually conducting the case studies, operational assessments and annual reports to dynamically adapt the project over time, and organizing workshop to exchange the practical experience and knowledge

Over the past few years, EFA is gradually building up the market mechanism through encouraging international and domestic capital to the potential areas where can create positive and sustainable social impact. Due to the strong relationship with the government and market participants partners, EFA has achieved significant progress in strengthening the policy and regulatory environment and stepping forward to provide feasible and innovative solution to financial inclusion.

By partnering with the innovative regional Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations (SHIFT) funding facility, EFA picked up and piloted the innovate ideas to achieve financial inclusion such as using mobile game application to improve the financial literacy of selected beneficiaries. In foreseeable future, EFA will continue working on the support of Financial Inclusion Roadmap implementation and pursue innovative finance solution by creating synergy among different market participants, with a specific focus on cross-cutting theme like digital financial services and women's economic empowerment.

A new project under EFA that was initiated was WEFIP: Women's Economic and Financial Inclusion Project. The objective of the project is to increase 200,000 women and girls' awareness of, access to, and use of agency over appropriate financial products and services responsibly provided by diverse and sustainable financial services providers in a well-regulated environment with a focus on conflict-affected areas of Myanmar.

The project aims to:

  • Enhance women and girls’ financial capabilities, voice and demand for finance with a focus on conflict-affected areas of Myanmar by: fostering partnerships for non-financial service delivery to account for women's lower financial and technical capabilities and confidence; strengthening and partnering with women's organizations and civil society organizations to address women's agency issues relating to women's capabilities, asset ownership, time, mobility, and security including for those with a form of disability; and understanding the barriers women and girls in Myanmar currently face in accessing, using and having agency over financial products and services in the following segments: in IDP camps and conflict-affected areas; disabled; and employees and entrepreneurs in the garment sector.
  • Promote gender sensitive financial products, services and delivery channels and support non-financial services with a focus on those conflict-affected areas of Myanmar to: incentivize collection and use of sex-disaggregated data by banks and mobile money operators; develop and raise awareness of the business case; and develop products, services and delivery channels, and provide minimum critical non-financial services to address agency constraints, particularly in conflict-affected areas.
  • Advance a gender and age sensitive enabling legal, policy and regulatory environment for the financial inclusion of women and girls in Myanmar, to address barriers and facilitate reforms; and incentivize the collection and use of sex-disaggregated data by financial inclusion regulators and policymakers.

WEFIP project achievement by 2020 can be summarized as below:

  • Total 16,675 beneficiaries, 81 percentage of rural woman are engaged and participated in Fintech development of testing new products of digital and financial literacy from both online and offline access from Myanmar including conflict and post conflict affected areas under Pilot phase I.
  • Two fintech companies (ONOW and Thitsaworks) were selected for phase 2, which expect to reach 120,000 rural women in Kachin, Kayin, Mon and Shan state with improved financial literacy, leading to 39,000 new account openings, and new linkages established with a broad range of financial service providers. These fintech partners have executed partnership agreements with MFIs and Bank.
  • UNCDF was selected as DP’s active Co-chair in June 2020 and provided technical assistance to the members of Women Political and Economic Technical Working group at the areas of reporting, preparation for quarterly meeting, providing capacity building activities to gov members.
  • Total 10,542 clients, 81 percentage of woman clients were benefit from improved new gender smart financial products and services access across from Myanmar, including conflict and post conflict affected areas.

MFI payment integration

MFI payment integration platform pilot project

“Enabling interoperability for low-income people in Myanmar: Building a production grade Mojaloop Integration Platform to facilitate a COVID-19 response” initiative is a key component of UNCDF “Leaving no one behind in the digital era” strategy in Myanmar. It is designed to support the digital transformation of Myanmar’s financial sector, with the microfinance sector in particular, through a common payment Level One aligned platform. The scope of this initiative and its impact to beneficiaries is nation-wide.

Before the current implementation, a pilot phase was concluded to test the capacity of MFIs to integrate to Level One Aligned Mojaloop platform. The pilot was successfully finalized in September 2020, proving the capacity and willingness of the MFIs, including other digital financial services providers to integrate to a common platform. It also shows the interest of the regulators to move forward with the implementation that the Core Banking System can connect different MFIs to each other, and also connect to other FSPs, and, likely, to the future National Payment System.

The current initiative aims to build a production grade Mojaloop integration platform aimed to provide real-time affordable digital financial services (DFS) for the people living at the bottom of the pyramid in Myanmar, building on the lessons from the pilot phase. This will be done through expanding the range of digital financial services that MFIs can offer to their current and future clients (mostly low-income women and the rural population). The current initiative is attempting to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 health and economic crisis by enabling different types of digital payments for low-income people, leveraging the MFIs, starting with electronic cash transfer (e-CTs) initiatives.


Starting in 2020, Leaving No One Behind (LNB) is an initiative that aims to support the expansion of financial services to underserved and rural Myanmar communities, and provide technical assistance for nine local Myanmar MFIs to transform from an NGO to a Company in compliance with the Myanmar Company Law (MCL).

By 2020, six out of nine MFIs successfully completed their operations transfer. LNB will also lay the groundwork, through technical assistance and capacity building, to ensure investment readiness for potentially greater growth through commercial capital acquisition. The LNB initiative aims to develop the local microfinance sector and strengthen MFI operations in order to provide sustainable financial inclusion for rural and vulnerable people in Myanmar.

Programmes in Myanmar


provide affordable, quality, effective and responsible financial services to youth, poor and low-income clients

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develop, pilot and scale deposit services for low income, rural populations, particularly women

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accelerate financial inclusion and women’s economic participation in the ASEAN region

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provide risk capital and technical assistance to financial service providers and energy enterprises on a regional or national level

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Results in Myanmar


Our Team

Yangon, Myanmar

Paul Wesley Luchtenburg
Programme Specialist

William Naing
National Officer

Aye Su Hlaing
Project Associate