Ideas & Updates

The Better Than Cash Journey: Concern and CARE

© ©Concern Worldwide

This is the fourth in a series of articles written by Maura Hart on the achievements of several Better Than Cash Alliance members. These highlights capture the innovative work by governments, businesses and development organizations to fulfill their commitment to transition from cash to digital payments.

Concern Worldwide: Delivering Emergency Funds Using Mobile Money

The Better Than Cash Journey: Concern and CARE


Founding member of the Better Than Cash Alliance, Concern Worldwide is an international humanitarian organization dedicated to tackling poverty and suffering in the world’s poorest countries.

In its commitment to using digital payments to support poor communities, Concern recently employed cutting edge mobile money technology to deliver emergency funds to families facing a severe food shortage in Mchinji District, Malawi.

Last year, Malawi faced another severe cycle of food shortages due to prolonged dry spells, flooding and low yields of maize.

According to the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee 2013 assessment, nearly 1.5 million of Malawi’s 13 million people were facing food insecurity in the imminent lean season (October 2013 – March 2014).

As part of a broader INGO emergency response, agencies’ pioneered a digital emergency money transfer program to support communities where food crops were dangerously low and populations did not have the income to purchase food.

The Better Than Cash Journey: Concern and CARE-2

Concern Worldwide is investing in women farmers in Malawi. Photo: Kathyothyo, Malawi, Pieternella Pieterse for Concern Worldwide

By providing income transfers for five months during the lean season, agencies helped families to meet their most pressing needs, recognizing that these needs are unique for each family.

With this assistance, families bought food or paid school and healthcare costs without being forced to sell valuable assets that will help them rebuild their lives after the emergency.

Concern Worldwide distributed the small amounts of emergency money using Airtel Money e-transfers to individual beneficiaries’ Airtel Money accounts, providing nearly 10,000 people in Mchinji district with a safe, transparent and reliable means to access funds in the emergency to meet their immediate needs.

Care: Using Mobile Payments Through M-Paisa

Better Than Cash Alliance member CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. One of the areas where CARE is fulfilling its commitment to shifting from cash to digital payments to assist poor communities is in Afghanistan.

CARE’s work in Afghanistan focuses on strengthening self-reliance while promoting basic human rights, good governance, and social, economic and gender equality. One is example is CARE’s program to promote educational opportunities for girls by helping communities establish and manage their own schools. Since CARE’s operations require multiple and frequent payment transactions with vendors, staff and other services, the organization is converting a number of those payments from cash to digital to improve efficiency and ease of delivering these vital programs.


CARE has been supporting girls’ education in Afghanistan for more than 19 years. Photo credit: CARE

For more than two years, CARE has been using mobile payment through M-Paisa, an innovative mobile money transfer and payment service, provided by Afghan telecommunications provider Roshan. They are paying about 50 vendors through M-Paisa and using a separate digital direct deposit system for staff salaries. In order to push this through, CARE had to absorb the transaction fees that would have otherwise been incurred by the vendors and staff, however, they saved some money by not having to pay for security to protect cash deliveries.

CARE has found both systems very reliable and has not received any complaints from our vendors who are paid through M-Paisa. They are now planning to more fully integrate digital payments into their education programs by extending digital payments via M-Paisa to about 300 community-based teachers to pay their monthly salary.