COVID-19 has forced many of us to stay at home and avoid unnecessary contact with others. These restrictions on our lives affect many of us but they disproportionately affect people living in poverty, those who do not have reliable and steady sources of income, enough savings in the bank, or access to credit to help tide them over. Without such basic financial services, many people have huge difficulty in covering basic living expenses and a large number may find themselves in deeper levels of poverty.
We have been using digital technology for over 10 years to help us improve people’s access to financial services through mobile devices – predominantly through basic cellphones without internet connectivity. This has enabled our clients to send and save money, pay bills, monitor and check their account balance, and access credit and insurance without having to visit a bank branch. For rural communities, this has been vital for them to access the support services needed for their businesses and families.
With social distancing and self-isolation, these digital services have never been more critical in supporting our clients.
Today there are 5.5 million Opportunity clients in Africa and Asia who now have access to a digital account and can obtain financial services through our 21 country partners. Mobile banking, digital field applications on tablets, and popular communication tools such as WhatsApp, are helping to keep our clients supported and able to access essential services and advice.
Nick Meakin (Director of Digital Financial Inclusion in Africa) comments: “We have been working alongside our partners in Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda to develop robust systems of cellphone banking along with networks of banking agents who provide basic financial services from nearby shops or kiosks (“agent banking”). Over 48,000 Opportunity clients across Africa are actively using cellphone banking and collectively carry out nearly 200,000 financial transactions each month. This is a 90% increase since the start of 2019, and this growth can be seen across all our partners in Africa. It shows the growing demand for good digital financial services for people living in poverty.”
During these uncertain times, we remain as committed as ever to ensuring that households and businesses have access to the financial tools and services they need.
Your support helps us continue this vital work. Thank you.