By JUDITH NAMUTOWE –
THE Iternational Finance Cooperation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, has announced an advisory services agreement with Airtel Zambia valued at US$1 million.
The agreement was aimed at increasing access to mobile financial services in the Zambian market in order to strengthen financial inclusion.
In Zambia, two-thirds of the adult population is excluded from formal financial services.
According to a statement issued in Lusaka yesterday, a majority of the population has no choice but to rely on cash and informal services for transactions, savings and credit, at high risk and cost. The statement said the overall aim of the three-year project was to assist Airtel Money Zambia in building a sustainable mobile money operation.
“IFC will provide market research and advisory services on agent network management and business strategy development. The project is part of the Partnership for Financial Inclusion, a US$37.4 million joint initiative of IFC and The MasterCard Foundation to expand micro-finance and advance mobile financial services in Sub-Saharan Africa,” reads the statement in part.
Airtel Money director Zambia Brenda Thole said a key focus area for Airtel Money was to support the Government’s mandate to enhance financial inclusion and to reach out to the unbanked population who may still have fears of mainstream banking or believe the services are too costly.
She said the implementation of mobile financial services has shown to be a successful way of increasing access to finance in several African markets. Kenya’s M-PESA is one of the most well-known mobile money operators in the world and is used by over 70 per cent of Kenyan adults.
Greta Bull, IFC programme manager for the Partnership for Financial Inclusion, said mobile phone usage was very high in Zambia, making it an ideal market in which to leverage technology to reach those who have previously been excluded from formal financial services.