Using Electronic Payments to Expand Financial Inclusion in Colombia


Government officials, NGOs and financial and technology companies convene to expand financial inclusion for rural poor

Experts highlight potential of digital technology to help meet crucial need for banking services among millions of small-scale farmers

Bogota, June 30, 2016--Grameen Foundation, MasterCard and representatives from the government met today at the event "Taking Digital Payments to the Last Mile” to explore opportunities to expand electronic payments in the Colombian rural sector.

The aim is to accelerate efforts to enable farmers to use digital technology to access and use a broad range of financial services that can help them improve their livelihoods and their families’ lives.

”Financial exclusion limits growth and development in rural areas of Colombia. The problem lies in that a large part of this population does not rely on banking services. However, many of these people have a mobile phone, which has the potential to deliver financial services to reach this sector,” explained Marcela Carrasco, President of MasterCard for Colombia and Ecuador.

In Colombia more than 12 million people depend on agriculture, of which only a minority are banked. In this context, the challenge consists of finding a viable channel for this population to access financial services, while ensuring comfort and confidence for users.

“Improving access to financial services in poor, rural communities is essential to reducing poverty and boosting Colombia’s economic growth. Colombia has made significant progress in expanding the use of digitally-based financial services in urban areas and must ensure that rural communities are part of that transformation, said Fernado Henao Velasaco, Grameen Foundation’s County Director for Colombia.

The use of mobile phones and other digital devices to complete payments electronically, securely and without the need to travel long distances, is an initiative that can transform the capacity of rural populations to acquire and pay for inputs, services and assets; complete investments, pay loans, among other things.

Several organizations have laid the groundwork for progress in this direction. For example, many rural Colombians already receive government benefits via mobile phone.  A pilot program developed by Grameen Foundation, with support from MasterCard, to enable large buyers to electronically place orders with farmer cooperatives also demonstrates how practical digital services can serve smallholders and agribusinesses.

The event is part of a collaboration between Grameen Foundation and MasterCard to use digital technology to connect smallholder farmers to financing, markets and information.

Attendees included international panelists and representatives from the public and private sector, such as Sonia Arenaza, financial specialist from Better Than Cash Alliance; Sandy Fernandez, Senior Director for Global Programs, Center for Inclusive Growth from MasterCard; Juan Felipe Quintero, Director of Rural Sustainable Development from the National Planning Department; Carlos Moya, Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean from the Alliance for Financial Inclusion; Jose Sanin, specialist in Mobile Money for GSMA; and Maria del Pilar Galindo, representative from the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, among others.