Airtel Zambia has recieved an advisory services agreement, valued at $1 million from IFC, a member of the World Bank Group to increase access to mobile financial services in the country in a move to strengthen financial inclusion.
Part of the Partnership for Financial Inclusion, a $37.4 million joint initiative of IFC and The MasterCard Foundation to expand microfinance and advance mobile financial services in Sub-Saharan Africa, the three-year project aims to help Airtel Money Zambia in building a sustainable mobile money operation by using market research and advisory services on agent network management and business strategy development from IFC.
In a statement Brenda Thole, Airtel Money Director Zambia, said, “A key focus area for Airtel Money is 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. This partnership with IFC and The MasterCard Foundation will boost our drive of customer education and help us build strong agent relationships, which are key to the success of this product.”
In Zambia, two-thirds of the adult population is excluded from formal financial services. 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 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 percent of Kenyan adults. In Tanzania, FinScope data show that the use of mobile money services has helped increase the rate of financial inclusion from 15.8 percent to 57.4 percent in just four years.
Greta Bull, IFC program manager for the Partnership for Financial inclusion, said, “Mobile phone usage is 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. Financial inclusion is an important tool in promoting inclusive economic growth that can have significant impact on livelihoods.”