The Universal Postal Union (UPU), an agency of the United Nations, has officially rolled out a digital financial service project targeted to reach around 800,000 people across Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.
The agency under its Financial Inclusion Technical Assistance Facility (FITAF) initiative plans to achieve its set target by the end of 2019.
The project is borne out of the need to reduce the number of the unbanked in highly excluded countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. According to UPU, it would help to build capacity to offer the digital financial services that can reach anyone, anywhere, anytime, giving citizens a safe place to keep their money and enable small businesses to access the financing they need to grow and contribute to the economy.
Bishar Hussein, UPU Director General, while speaking at a panel session during UNCTAD’s Africa eCommerce Week in Nairobi, said the UPU was “acting concretely to develop digital finance through the Post on the ground, to the benefit of the underserved population and businesses.”
He added that in Africa, the project would first launch in Benin, Côte d Ivoire, Ghana, Rwanda, while also focusing on the digitalisation of postal financial services. “The UPU helps its member countries to introduce or develop inclusive and sustainable financial services.”
According to him, some 91 percent of postal outlets worldwide already offer some form of financial services, “there is still work to do when it comes to bringing more unbanked people into the formal financial system,” the UN said on its website.
On how FITAF would be used to drive inclusion of the 800,000 targets, the agency said it would provide selected Posts with support on several fronts, including: Digital Financial Services (DFS) Assessments, Software acquisition, New financial services, and Capacity building Expertise.
Through FITAF, the UPU will also carry out broader research on postal financial inclusion, and will share new insights and resources for UPU members and stakeholders, such as case studies, a readiness guide and the organisation of workshops.
“Assistance will be provided according to need, based on requests from designated operators following the required process as detailed in the relevant call for projects,” UPU noted.
The criteria for the agency to select a Post include: commitment from the Post’s management and from government leader, the existence of a legal and regulatory framework to enable the Post to deliver financial services, including digital financial services, evidence of innovation, impacts on financial inclusion, and willingness to co-fund 20 percent of costs.
“Countries can apply for assistance through the UPU’s call for projects,” the UPU notified on its website.