Mobile money expands financial inclusion and economic empowerment in Malawi
Worldwide, approximately 2 billion people do not have access to financial services, often because traditional banking services are too costly. Without a bank account or easy access to a bank, individuals may not be able to save money or invest in a new or existing business. Mobile money can be a pathway out of poverty toward economic empowerment.
Mobile money solutions are essential to improving financial inclusion in Malawi. FHI 360’s Feed the Future Malawi Mobile Money project began developing such a solution in 2014 to help select unbanked or under-banked populations, such as farmers, day laborers and people who receive social welfare.
The project worked with the Malawi Union of Savings and Credit Cooperatives (MUSCCO), which has more than 30 affiliated savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs) that provide microfinance services to more than 100,000 people across Malawi. When the Feed the Future mobile money project began implementation in 2016, it was open to five cooperatives, with a total membership of 32,000 people. These initial cooperatives were chosen because they already had the infrastructure in place to pilot the program. Members now have access to their accounts through mobile phones and no longer need to travel long distances, in some cases as far as 50 kilometers, to conduct financial business, such as applying for microloans, paying back loans or making cash deposits into an account.
A satisfied member of a cooperative in Lilongwe talked about the new feature, “I am very happy about the mobile money service that MUSCCO has introduced. In the past, it used to take me almost the whole day to access different services at my SACCO branch. Now, I do not have to leave work. I am able to do all the transactions while remaining productive at my place of work. In addition to this, I am also saving on transport costs to and from my SACCO branch.”
To help expand mobile money services, cooperatives are now using social media and radio programs to promote the benefits of mobile money. MUSCCO is also adding mobile money services to more cooperatives, and it hopes to eventually make these services available across the rest of the country.
Photo credit: Malawi Union of Savings and Credit Cooperative (MUSCCO)/FHI 360