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Issue no. 2 - 2014 Governor Community Connection

Spotlight on Mobile Money

By Opportunity International

Providing Mobile Money Services: Your Questions, Our Answers

In Africa, we’re on the road to making mobile-phone-based banking a primary delivery channel for all Opportunity operations. Clients throughout our network will be able to use their mobile phones to transfer bank account funds, conduct balance inquiries, pay bills withdraw cash, submit loan applications, purchase mobile airtime, send loan repayments, deposit savings and purchase microinsurance. We’re first bringing our work to scale in Uganda.

Why is Opportunity focusing first on Uganda?

62% of Ugandans lack access to banking services – and the great majority of Opportunity’s clients fall into this group of "unbanked" people. Without bank accounts, they are hard-pressed to operate a functional, modern business. In the short term, they don't have a secure place to store and earn interest on their business profits, making it difficult to manage their unpredictable cash flows. And in the longer term, they can’t build a household safety net, nor can they create new jobs in their communities.

Why are so many Ugandans go without banking services?

Most people living in poverty simply don't have the minimum amount of money needed to open an account at a traditional bank. They may also lack required documentation such as birth certificates. Furthermore, 85% of Ugandans live in rural areas, which are hard to reach with traditional brick-and-mortar banks.

What has been accomplished so far?

We launched Opportunity's mobile money service in April 2013 through a partnership with Yo Uganda Limited, a mobile money aggregator connected with Uganda’s top mobile operators. As of January 2014, more than $2 million in transactions had been made by Opportunity client via mobile money. This strong adoption rate indicates that Opportunity’s entrepreneurs are eager to use the technology.

What’s next for mobile money in Uganda?

Already, Opportunity is the only development organization in Uganda that offers fledgling entrepreneurs a full suite of mobile banking features. To further scale our mobile-based services here, we will invest in more training for staff and clients. We’re going to combine peer-to-peer direct training with print and multimedia resources to ensure that people with varying and often limited educational backgrounds are comfortable using mobile money.

Technology Highlight: Transformation in the Palm of Your Hand

If you have a mobile-banking app on your phone, Opportunity International’s Justin McAuley probably had a hand in creating it.

For ten years, Justin worked for some of the world’s leading technology companies – including IBM, Oracle and Monitise – to bring mobile banking to developing countries such as India.

In Fall 2013, he decided to take on a new challenge, assuming the role of Opportunity International’s Director of Branchless Banking. Justin’s decision was deeply driven by a belief that technology can change millions of lives for the better.

“Spending so much time in India gave me a real desire to help the majority of the population in developing countries, who have little access to financial services at all,” he said. “This coincided with a personal conviction that now was the time in my life when I really needed to start giving back.”

He and his team have made huge advances over the past several months. They are currently preparing a rollout for Mobile Money, which gives our clients access to savings accounts, loan disbursements, repayments and deposits over their cell phones.

His goal for the second half of 2014 is to launch Mobile Money in rural Tanzania for agricultural loans. This work includes deployment of new technology, processes and staff. But, as any visionary does, he’s already looking further into the future.

“We then want to expand the same approach to our other members to allow them to reach further into their rural communities, without the need for a physical branch building,” he explained. “It’s a transformational technology for peoples’ lives, and that’s what gets me up in the morning.”

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