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financial infrastructure

Championing interoperability for financial inclusion: carrot or stick?

Thomas Lammer's picture
Mobile payments at Hawala Market in Daykundi, Afghanistan. Photo: Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion

Interoperability – a term used in a variety of industries, including telecommunications and financial services – is generally understood to refer to the ability of different systems and sometimes even different products to seamlessly interact. For payment systems, “interoperability” depends not only on the technical ability of two platforms to interact but also the contractual relationships between the entities wanting to interact. Traditionally, interoperability has been established by the same type of institutions, by banks’ participation in a central retail payment infrastructure (e.g. a central switch or an automated clearing house) and adhering to a payment scheme (e.g. a card scheme or a credit transfer scheme).

These days interoperability in retail payments is no longer limited by national borders and the overall ecosystem has become more complex. Non-bank payment service providers have emerged (many of them mobile network operators-MNOs) and there are new types of payment instruments (e.g. mobile money). Innovative payment instruments often start as proprietary solutions, processed in-house rather than via a central platform. In that regard, interoperability can help tear down barriers by enabling transactions between customer accounts of different mobile money solutions. In some countries, interoperability even facilitates transactions across different type of accounts (e.g. deposit transaction accounts held with banks and mobile money accounts held with non-bank service providers).

How can we cut the high costs of remittances to Africa?

Massimo Cirasino's picture

Read it in French, Spanish or Mandarin.

Migrant workers, earning money in jobs far from home, sent more than $400 billion to their families back home in 2012. Such remittances remain a vital source of income for millions of people in developing countries: Food, housing, education, health care and more are paid for every day by workers who earn money abroad. Through a simple and repetitive transaction – sending money home – those workers are really sending heart-warming feelings like hope for a better future and love of family.

5x5 = US$16 billion in the pockets of migrants sending money home

Marco Nicoli's picture

Should you ever need a haircut in South London, you would have the option to choose from a wide array of African hair stylists. There you can get your hair colored, cut, or braided, while chatting up the latest gossip in town, and... you can send money back to Nigeria.

Many stores in South London allow you to send money abroad. It looks just like a fruit market, where the sellers have to compete among each other. Aside from trying to lure customers in with the best looking apples and pears, they also keep their prices exposed.

But the world is not... ("...enough" you are thinking, if you are a James Bond fan) ...the world is not South London and remittance services are not crispy apples nor they are juicy pears. The price for sending money might include a fee, taxes, a margin on the exchange rate applied, and a commission to the receiver. And each service is different in terms of speed and extensiveness of the network where money can be picked up by the receiver. In other words, it is not as easy to compare as the price of apples.