A two day conference organized by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) under its Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) programme, in partnership with the Nepal Rastra Bank concluded on Friday.
The conference was held in Kathmandu on 24 and 25, April 2014, with a large audience of some 100 representatives of Nepal’s current and future digital financial services sector. Participants included delegates from NRB, Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development, public and private sector banks, Nepal Telecommunication Authority, Nepal Electricity Authority, development partners, technology service providers, as well as agents and customers of branchless banking.
The objective of the conference was to bring different stakeholders together to discuss the promotion of branchless and mobile financial services to achieve greater financial inclusion, as well as look at the role of policy and regulation in expanding digital financial services. During the conference, facilitated by MicroSave, experts and speakers from Bangladesh, India and Cambodia presented case studies, experiences and lessons learned from their countries. The conference covered topics such as understanding strategies behind successful deployments in agent banking; developing appropriate services for clients; setting up and managing an efficient agent networks; developing the right financial education programs; driving volumes with Government to People (G2P) payments and other bulk payments, and exploring linkages with microfinance institutions (MFIs) and cooperatives.
In his opening speech, Dr. Yuba Raj Khatiwada, the Governor of Nepal Rastra Bank, stressed the importance of cooperation and coordination among stakeholders to promote financial inclusion in the country and the need to further efforts to expand access to the financial services. Dr. Khatiwada noted that “it is essential for Nepal’s overall progress that we provide a wide access to financial services through branchless and mobile banking. This can only be achieved if all stakeholders come together to reach the goal of universal access to finance. A few banks and financial institutions have started working in this direction, but a lot more remains to be done. To make this possible the NRB is dedicated to providing an enabling environment for the industry”.
While addressing the gathering, Massimo Diana, Head of the UN Resident Coordinator Office and Strategic Advisor, emphasized the importance of forging public private partnership and focus on innovations for the expansion and outreach of digital financing in the country to promote growth and Francois Coupienne of MM4P programme of UNCDF, in his welcome remarks reiterated the commitment of UNCDF to work closely with NRB and other stakeholders to make branchless and mobile financial services successful in Nepal. He outlined the strategy of UNCDF under the programme.
During the two day conference, the expert speakers and thematic panel members shared their views on various topics, which was followed by open sessions stimulating interactions and cross learning. The last
session of the conference focused on developing a future road-map to assist the sector to pave the way. The conference was closed with the address of Maha Prasad Adhikari, Deputy Governor of Nepal Rastra Bank. He highlighted the importance and need of stakeholders to come forward and develop models that could assist in taking the financial inclusion agenda forward into remote locations. In his closing remarks, Adhikari stated that “technology and innovative agent models can help Nepal reach its financial inclusion goals, and there is still a need to focus on developing new products, to improve agent banking and to invest long term in the business.“
Through MM4P, UNCDF have conducted a series of workshops and consultations with providers for developing strategies for branchless and mobile banking. UNCDF is also working closely with NRB on
strengthening branchless and mobile banking in Nepal.