Financial inclusion is a current
concept that has developed from a triage of computer technology, mobile devices
and political mobilization by social advocates who seek to enhance economic
prospects for the lowest income citizens in the developing world. Financial inclusion allows people and
businesses to access secure, convenient and affordable payments for meeting
daily needs and long-term goals (Visa, 2017). For the two billion unbanked adults in the
global population, the introduction of electronic payments can become a
critical tool to address issues related to poverty while also helping local
merchants grow their business ventures. (“Underserved and Overlooked”, 2017) Companies
such as Visa are bolstering financial inclusion for marginalized communities
through cutting-edge digital initiatives that pave the path out of poverty and
catalyze financial growth for destitute citizens.
operates the world’s largest global consumer payment system with a reach of
over 200 countries and territories across six continents. Their cards are
accepted at 46 million merchant locations, are issued by 16,300 financial
institutions, and amount to more than 3 billion cards circulating worldwide
(Schiermann, 2017). Visa’s vast digital network is a powerful platform to
advance financial inclusion on a global scale. By bringing individuals into the
formal financial system, Visa fosters opportunities to strengthen economies
worldwide. Visa is combining its expertise in payments to combat poverty by
fostering greater economic self-sufficiency among low-income individuals and
communities (Visa, 2017).
Mobile devices have been a major factor
for encouraging financial inclusion through enabling the electronic transfer of
money for business transactions and family payments in lieu of brick and mortar
banking or cash. Out of the two billion in the population, one billion unbanked
individuals have reliable access to a mobile device (Zucarro & Bridwell,
2016). Visa’s mobile-network product mVisa is overcoming bank branch scarcity
by helping people in lower socioeconomic areas such as India, Kenya and Rwanda
to initiate a transaction at any merchant with a Visa logo. In 2011, Visa
acquired Fundamo, one of the most dominant providers of mobile financial
services in emergent nations. Visa leverages Fundamo’s platform to offer
enhanced functionality to existing mobile financial services subscribers
throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America. Harnessing Fundamo’s customer base
and Visa’s extensive network, consumers in these areas are able to pay bills
and perform branchless banking services from their mobile devices (Zucarro
& Bridwell, 2016).
The Visa Direct program works in a
similar manner to mVisa by allowing consumers to send money to Visa accounts
across the globe. If both parties hold a Visa card, consumers can send funds to
another person’s Visa account, transfer money to a reloadable prepaid card, pay
a Visa credit card bill and merchants can disburse funds to customer accounts
for returns (“Underserved and Overlooked”, 2017). Visa debit and prepaid cards are currently in
use by governments around the world to deliver a wide range of social benefits
that provide for basic needs such as pensions, food and fuel subsidies,
unemployment benefits, disability assistance, child support, health services
and educational scholarships. For example, the state of Nebraska began issuing
the Visa Reliacard in 2004 for child support benefits. Today, 97 percent of
disbursements from the Nebraska Child Support Payment Centre are done
electronically either by direct deposit or prepaid debit cards (Gosnell, 2005).
Additionally, Visa partnered with the
government of the Dominican Republic to provide social benefits to its citizens.
The Dominican Republic is a densely populated country with a large,
impoverished population that is heavily dependent on welfare benefits. Because
many eligible recipients are unbanked, the government previously distributed
benefits to its most poverty-stricken citizens manually via trucks. This process
proved to be disorganized, inefficient and expensive due to the lack of an
electronic system and tracking record for those receiving benefits. The central
government and Visa collaborated to launch an initiative called The Solidarity
Card by which prepaid cards were distributed to 5,000 of the poorest families
in the country (Zucarro & Bridwell, 2016).
Visa installed more than 4,500 monitors
at participating stores and local merchants for processing transactions using
the cards. The card was limited to use at participating locations and cash
could not be withdrawn at ATMs. The benefits of receiving aid in this way
reduced corruption, allowed better tracking of those who were receiving funds
and stimulated the local economy by residents buying goods locally.
With the abundant success of this prepaid card program, the
Dominican Republic can now document and manage benefits distribution amongst
it’s citizens to ensure optimal aid while reducing subsidy distribution costs
(Zucarro & Bridwell, 2016).
Financial Inclusion seeks to improve the
lives of the lowest income citizens by encouraging the shift from informal
economies characterized by cash transactions towards more modern formal economies.
Through the aggressive utilization of technology, Visa has provided
comprehensive services that have transformed the lives of lower income families
around the world.