Saturday, December 18, 2010

E-Wallet Strategies for the Rural Poor...

Usually, people think of technology for the advanced countries and for the rich. Not really.

At UOB, we are going to deploy high-tech solutions to expand the outreach of financial services to the rural poor. We call them "e-wallet strategies."

E-wallet strategies will include five components:

1. Debit cards: These cards are not mag striped cards. They are chip and PIN cards. Surely they are expensive. But Rwandan government is subsidizing them for the 2011-12 period. A golden window of opportunity. We are going to deploy a significant number of cards. This would enhance the self esteem of the rural poor tremendously because there are only 2,000 or so card holders in Rwanda at present.

2. ATMs: ATMs are not new, but they are new to the rural poor. RSwitch is expected to be fully functional in different capacity from January 2011. This EFT platform will expand significantly.

3. POS (Point of Sale) banking: Again, POS is not new, but its usage will be more than making payment for the purchase of goods and services. It will be an effective tool to facilitate cash access in remote area.

4. Mobile (cellphone) banking: This is more common in certain African countries than in the U.S. You can send money, buy airtime, make payment for utility and make payment for loans via cell phone. It is getting rapidly spread.

5. Agent network: This is the network of agents working on behalf of banks. This type of banking is called "branchless or agent banking." It is another creative way of expanding the cash access points in the rural areas.

It is a lot easier to be said than done.

There are numerous challenges to overcome until these strategies are effectively implemented. Thus, I need to go to the Lord on my knees, seeking His wisdom and grace on these strategies. Oh Lord, may we seek your guidance... - Jeffrey

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