Mobile money service launched in Bangladesh

Fintech Innovation editors
Fintech Innovation

Financial inclusion in Bangladesh just took a stride closer to reality with the launch of a new international remittance receiving service via a partnership between MasterCard, Western Union, bKash and BRAC Bank.

The new service enables bKash’s registered customers to use their mobile phones to receive remittances from abroad directly into their bKash accounts.

A subsidiary of BRAC Bank and a joint venture between BRAC Bank and Money in Motion LLC of USA, bkash serves the low income masses of Bangladesh to achieve broader financial inclusion by providing services that are convenient, affordable and reliable.

With 70% of the population living in rural Bangladesh many of whom have no access to formal financial services, it is also the eight largest receiver of international remittances in the world. Under 15% of Bangladeshis are connected to the prescribed banking system whereas over 68% have mobile phones.

World Bank South Asia Financial Inclusion Index 2014These phones are not only devices for talking, but can be used for more useful and difficult processing tasks. bKash was conceived primarily to use these mobile devices and the universal telecom networks to extend financial services in a protected manner to the under-served distant population of Bangladesh.

By using the new service, bKash’s registered customers can receive remittances from every Western Union send market and channel directly into their bKash account, 24 hours a day.

MasterCard’s Matthew Driver said: “This relationship is another step towards achieving our global commitment to make the financial system accessible to 500 million more people by 2020. Working with companies such as bKash and Western Union is crucial to taking advantage of the latest technology; digitizing money transfers and supporting financial inclusion efforts in the South Asia region and worldwide. The choice, flexibility and convenience of this new bKash service will help to expand financial inclusion to some of the most remote parts of this thriving nation.”

Western Union’s Jean Claude Farah said international money transfers over mobile phones will accelerate financial inclusion in Bangladesh where there are currently more mobile phones than there are customers with bank accounts.

In 2011, the Bangladesh Bank, the country’s central bank, issued the Mobile Financial Services (MFS) Guidelines and mandated that the model where MFS must be bank-led but also clearly indicated that partnerships with mobile operators must be forged to reach customers. The first two MFS providers to emerged as leaders early on were BRAC/bKash and Dutch Bangla-Bank/DBBL.

Like many parts of developing Asia, financial inclusion is part of the government via the central bank’s strategic plan, aimed at ensuring these products meet the needs of the traditionally underserved segments of society. Among the services on priority list include expanding access to financial services to women, poor and rural populations; and formalizing financial services by promoting registered transactions.

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