Why Digital Payments

Billions of dollars in cash payments are made daily in emerging and developing countries, including salaries, social transfers, humanitarian relief and payments to suppliers and farmers.

Shifting these payments from cash to digital has the potential to improve the lives of people on low income, particularly women. It also means that governments, companies and international organizations can make and receive payments in a cheaper, safer and more transparent way, helping build economies that are inclusive. Our Alliance does not want to abolish physical cash, but rather, we aim for choice in how to make and receive payments. We want all digital payment options to be responsible and “better than cash”.

How to define digital payments


When provided responsibly, digital payments also advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

Examples of how digital payments ignite progress on the Sustainable Development Goals:

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1 No poverty

The spread of mobile money lifted roughly 1 million people out of extreme poverty from 2008 to 2014 – the equivalent of 2% of the population.

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2 zero hunger

The government move to card-based vouchers for 1.4 million recipients of subsidized rice in 2017. Nine out of ten recipients said they received more and better-quality food.

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3 good health and well being

Shifting to digital payments at the height of the Ebola crisis from 2014 to 2016 helped reduce time taken to make payments to critical health workers from over a month to one week.

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4 quality education

Households headed by women increased education spending by 20% when given access to a digital savings account.

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5 gender equality

Alliance member brands, H&M, Gap Inc., Marks & Spencer and Inditex and BSR (Business for Social Responsbility), are joining forces to scale up wage digitization for garment workers, 60-80% of whom are women.

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6 clean water and sanitation

In a recently concluded first pilot managed by the Alliance and Government of Ghana, 15,000 customers paid for reliable water services via digital channels. Against a target of 30%, it achieved a growth of 120% in receiving digital payments for water utilities digitally.

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7 affordable and clean energy

There are 866 million registered mobile money accounts enabling new business models for affordable and clean energy companies. Pay-as-you-go solar energy companies have used digital finance to provide 10 million people with affordable, modern energy.

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8 decent work and economic growth

By choosing to have a portion of their salaries automatically deposited into mobile phone savings accounts, workers at a firm saved 37% of their salary on average in the first 6 months.

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9 industry innovation and infrastructure

Grupo Bimbo worked with small retailers to help them adopt digital payments. Sales revenue increased by up to 30% for participating merchants.

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10 reduced inequalities

In rural communities, storing income in a digital bank account, rather keeping cash at home, increase household savings by 131% within three months.

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11 sustainable cities and communities

Moving from cash to tap-and-go smart cards for buses in Kigali helped the bus operator to raise revenue by 140% in just one month, stopping the non-payment of bus fares.

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13 climate action

Using nudges and gamification, Ant Financial encouraged 500 million users to change their consumption behavior to be more green and financially support planting trees. This resulted in over 100 million trees being planted, covering a total area of 112,000 hectares in Northwest China.

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16 peace justice and strong institutions

Digitizing entrance fees in national parks reduced leakages by 40%, increasing government revenues by $7 million.