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Pathways out of poverty: Innovating banking technologies to reach the rural poor

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Abstract:

Microfinance, the provision of financial services to the poor, has emerged as one of the promising pathways out of poverty. But how can the people living far from the pathway access microfinance? This case study addresses this question by looking at how an innovative microfinance bank in Africa, Opportunity International Bank of Malawi (OIBM) is exploring alternative delivery approaches and tailored products that appeal to the rural population who have been excluded by the high cost access to the mainstream financial sector. It is experimenting with mobile banking services using armoured trucks equipped with smart card technology, value chain interventions, weather-indexed insurance and savings accounts. Initial evidence indicates that these have the potential to reduce risk, cost and improve access to financial services for those whom microfinance has found difficult to reach. However, the analysis suggests there are inherent challenges that need to be addressed if these successes are to continue.

Keywords: CASH TRANSFERS; MALAWI; MICROFINANCE; MOBILE BANKING; SMART CARDS

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3362/1755-1986.2008.005

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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