New Digital Financial Services Working Group Launched in Liberia
In collaboration with the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) programme Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) is launching today a national Working Group on Digital Financial Services (DFS) with the primary objective of providing a platform for collaboration among the different players in accelerating the development of the digital financial services ecosystem in Liberia.
Liberia is home to 4.4 million people, over 80 percent of whom live below the poverty line of USD 1.25. After experiencing a steady economic growth between 2005 and 2013, the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in 2014, combined with a slump in iron ore and rubber prices, brought the economic activity to a standstill.
With half of the population living in rural areas, poor infrastructure represents a major obstacle to financial inclusion. According to the CBL, only 28 percent of the country’s adult population is formally banked by 9 commercial banks and 87 branches across the country.
In view of the above, the Government has joined the Better Than Cash Alliance, a global partnership of governments, companies and international organizations that accelerates the shift from cash to digital payments to help people lift themselves out of poverty and drive inclusive growth. Specifically, the Government of Liberia has committed to fully embracing e-payments for government salaries, building on ongoing efforts to pay teachers and civil servants through mobile phones.
Similarly, the CBL is setting the basis for an enabling regulatory environment that would encourage the use of technology as well as the development of innovative distribution models.
To accelerate the development of digital finance in Liberia, the Working Group will:
- Provide an appropriate forum for industry-level dialogue where DFS stakeholders (government, mobile network operators, banks, Microfinance institutions, development partners etc…) engage regularly;
- Identify constraints and opportunities related to the deployment of scalable DFS in Liberia, notably in rural and remote areas;
- Promote the collaboration among the different players for delivering financial services in a transparent, fair and safe manner;
- Advocate for support from government for DFS–related initiatives as well as assist in the framing of progressive DFS regulations and financial inclusion policies;
- Support the development of innovative models for widening the outreach of formal financial services by serving as a platform for generating and sharing knowledge.
Mr. Milton A. Weeks, the CBL Executive Governor, will launch the inaugural session of the DFS working group by delivering the opening remarks.
Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) is a programme launched by UNCDF in partnership with the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The MasterCard Foundation. MM4P provides support to branchless and mobile financial services in a select group of LDCs to demonstrate how the correct mix of financial, technical and policy support can build a robust branchless and mobile financial services ecosystem that reaches low income people in LDCs.
UNCDF is the UN’s capital investment agency for the world’s 48 least developed countries (LDCs). With its capital mandate and instruments, UNCDF offers “last mile” finance models that unlock public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to reduce poverty and support local economic development. This last mile is where available resources for development are scarcest; where market failures are most pronounced; and where benefits from national growth tend to leave people excluded