Bankable Frontier Associates, MasterCard Foundation partner on initiative to aid poor in Ghana & Tanzania

The poor in the African nations of Ghana and Tanzania will have better access to financial services through Financial Inclusion on Business Runways (FIBR), a new initiative of global consulting firm Bankable Frontier Associates (BFA) and the MasterCard Foundation.

This multi-million-dollar project will span four years and see financial experts gathering and digitizing data from business transactions in Ghana and Tanzania.

The project officially commenced on Thursday in Accra, Ghana. Several local groups and businesses had already begun pre-qualifying programs for FIBR; the first program participants will be chosen in June.

FIBR will also encourage the use of technology as well as business and financial partnerships. As smartphone use grows in Africa (it is expected to be more than 50 percent by the year 2020), customer data generation will also increase, and that data will be used by FIBR to develop new strategies for making credit and insurance products available to customers in underserved areas.

"FIBR is exploring different types of relationships, or links, between financial service providers and poor customers," David Porteous, BFA CEO, said."The smartphone now makes it possible to propose new and more targeted solutions by a new range of players. How this happens and what will succeed is largely untested but it will be a transformative contribution to the financial services sector and how the poor better manage their money."

Analyzing the financial data from Ghana and Tanzania's poor will allow FIBR researchers to work with banks and insurance firms to develop banking and insurance products those people can afford and benefit from.

"These business-based relationships, such as a shopkeeper extending customer credit, an employer setting aside savings for employees or a club providing micro-insurance to its members represent an untapped, indirect source of financial data about a person," said Mark Wensley, senior program manager of financial inclusion at The MasterCard Foundation. "With this data, banks and microfinance institutions, even mobile network operators, can offer a wide range of new financial services to poor customers whom they currently cannot serve directly."

More information about the FIBR initiative is available online at www.fibrproject.org.

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