IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, today announced it will provide advisory services to Urwego Opportunity Bank to help it expand low-cost mobile financial services in Rwanda, especially to women and small businesses. The project is funded by a grant of $580,000 from Oesterreichische Entwicklungsbank, OeEB, the Development Bank of Austria.
IFC estimates that only 12 percent of working adults in Sub-Saharan Africa currently have access to banking services, compared to 22 percent in South Asia and 50 per cent in Latin America and Eastern Europe. In Rwanda only 23 per cent of adults use formal financial services.
The project aims to scale up the provision of low-cost financial services through the development of mobile delivery channels and new products. UOB currently provides loan, business training, savings accounts and other services to over 118,000 customers. Four fifths of its customers are women, and its loan portfolio is dedicated to small businesses.
Jeffrey Lee, CEO of UOB, said, “Rwanda still has millions of people who are unbanked. We believe the most effective way of reaching them is through mobile banking solutions and a cost-effective agent network. OeEB’s funding and IFC’s advice will help accelerate our work in doing so.”
IFC will help UOB develop an agent network for branchless banking, with staff training and customer education, market research and product development, and in the establishment of a call centre.
David Crush, IFC Manager for Access to Finance Advisory Services in Sub-Saharan Africa said, “Access to finance is a key tool in fighting poverty. UOB has already been able to provide finance for many small-scale entrepreneurs to expand their businesses and hire people, creating jobs and contributing to economic growth in Rwanda. There is scope to do so much more.”
Michael Wancata, member of the Executive Board of OeEB, said, “By supporting mobile financial services OeEB is supporting economic development in a very effective way. Income will be generated and thereby living conditions will be improved.”
The project is part of the Partnership for Financial Inclusion with The MasterCard Foundation, which aims to scale up microfinance and accelerate the development of mobile financial services in Sub-Saharan Africa to reach a total of 5.3 million previously unbanked customers on the continent by 2017.