Bangladesh man on a cell phone

New United Nations Report Reveals Bangladesh’s Progress on Digital Finance As Key Leaders Meet to Discuss Future Steps

November 26, 2016

In-depth analysis shows Bangladesh making impressive strides towards a digital economy, identifies solutions for further progress

Joint media release:

Dhaka, November 27, 2016- Digital payments can help Bangladesh drive significant financial inclusion, economic growth and cost savings through specific reforms set out in a new report, released today by the United Nations-based Better Than Cash Alliance.


“All transactions of the government can be paperless in the next two years. With all our successes until now we will continue to work really hard to achieve this outcome of having paperless offices across all government entities,” said Mr. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Bangladesh’s Finance Minister, at today’s event “Digital Payments for Digital Bangladesh: Building an Ecosystem for All”, jointly organized by Bangladesh’s Access to Information Program at the Prime Minister’s Office and the United Nations’ Better Than Cash Alliance.

70%

of government payments in Bangladesh were made digitally

The new report ‘Building Digital Bangladesh: The Way Forward for Digitizing Payments’ reveals that Bangladesh has experienced 120 percent year-on-year growth in mobile financial services (MFS) transactions since 2011. In 2015, over one billion transactions were made digitally worth nearly US$20 billion, with nearly 70 percent of government payments made digitally. As of today over 38 million people have used mobile money services, showing the growing appetite to move away from a cash-dominant economy.

The new report, authored by pi Strategy Consulting, comes soon after a McKinsey Global Institute study found that digital finance was particularly important for countries such as Bangladesh. McKinsey projected that globally, digital finance could lead to a US$3.7 trillion GDP boost by 2025, create 95 million new jobs across all sectors, bring 1.6 billion new people into the formal financial system, and save US$110 billion annually in payment leakages in emerging countries.


“The significant progress in moving away from cash that Bangladesh has made in such a short amount of time is due to the government’s strong leadership, the innovation of the private sector and citizens’ openness to a digital future,” said Dr. Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director of the Better Than Cash Alliance. “As a country striving for inclusive growth, Bangladesh has an exceptional opportunity to harness electronic payments to transform lives, businesses, and economies at all levels.”

However, while Bangladesh has seen impressive results, the report also shows that substantial work is still needed. The majority of citizens and businesses in Bangladesh continue to use cash as their primary payment method, and there are significant obstacles that need to be addressed in order for the country to continue its progress. Most notably, people using different services are generally unable to send money to each other, and there is a lack of competition that is likely contributing to prices that are too high to increase usage and expand financial inclusion.

To overcome these obstacles, the new UN report sets out a reform roadmap, outlining three main steps the government of Bangladesh can take to create an economy where more citizens and businesses can pay or get paid digitally:

  • Fully implement the National Identification System, which is already under way, and integrate it with key services.
  • Improve the regulatory environment to achieve more competition in the MFS market. This will result in greater product innovation, and will be a vital step in improving the business case for businesses to move toward digital payments.
  • Improve interoperability to enable people using different services to send money to each other.

The report notes that further digitization of Government-to-Person payments could save an estimated US$146 million annually across six major social safety net programs. It also highlights the opportunity to incentivize adoption of digital payments for businesses, whose payments represent about 40 percent (US$150 billion) of the total value of payments in Bangladesh today, as well as for the nearly six million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that account for 25 percent of GDP and employ 75-85 percent of the total workforce.


“Our nation’s quest to attain middle income status and our government’s efforts at creating a robust digital society are merely two sides of the same coin with the singular goal of ensuring inclusive growth. Our partnership with BTCA is about leapfrogging development, breaking out of the conventional progress curve by creating unprecedented financial services, through technology, for the traditionally marginalized, the unbanked and the unbankable,” said Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor for the Access to Information Program at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Dr Ruth Goodwin Groen, Managing Director, UN’s Better Than Cash Alliance, Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor, a2i, and high officials of UN’s Better Than Cash Alliance and a2i Programme and also a good number of media journalists were presents in the summit.

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Access to Information (a2i) is a programme at the Prime Minister’s Office of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Supported by UNDP & USAID, the overall objective of the programme is to provide support in building a digital nation through delivering services at the citizens’ doorsteps. The programme aims to improve quality, widen access, and decentralize delivery of public services to ensure responsiveness and transparency. Financial inclusion through digital means is a distinct focus area of a2i. To learn more, visit www.a2i.pmo.gov.bd and follow @a2i_bd.

The Better Than Cash Alliance is a global partnership of governments, companies, and international organizations that accelerate the transition from cash to digital payments in order to reduce poverty and drive inclusive growth. The United Nations Capital Development Fund serves as the secretariat. To learn more, visit www.betterthancash.org, follow @BetterThan_Cash.

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