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How Can We Get Unbanked People to Go Digital? | Closing The Gap | GZERO Media

How can we get unbanked people to go digital?

Sending remittances can be prohibitively expensive. How come?

It costs a lot to manage cash in a secure way for unbanked people, Rubén Salazar, global head of Visa Direct, says during a livestream conversation on closing the global digital gap hosted by GZERO in partnership with Visa.

But some players are making progress in reducing costs, which the UN wants to cap at 3% by the end of the decade.

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Paige Fusco

How it pays to innovate

Every time you pay for dinner by tapping your cellphone on a sensor, receive money for that freelance gig, or access government transfers by phone, you are participating in the rapidly accelerating move away from cash.

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A man comparing US Dollars with Lebanese pounds, in Beirut, Lebanon.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: Digital payment lifelines for cash-strapped Lebanon, digital solutions for overcoming COVID, fintech & the war in Ukraine

Digital trade offers Lebanon a lifeline

Lebanon’s economy has imploded following decades of government mismanagement. Its currency has lost more than 90% of its value against the US dollar since 2019, and the banking sector is in shambles. When foreign capital dried up, the government adopted strict capital controls preventing Lebanese from withdrawing dollar savings. This has led to mass demonstrations and even fake bank heists – desperate bids by some to get their hands on their own money. The International Monetary Fund has told Beirut to reform its zombie banking sector in order to unlock bailout funds – but to no avail. As a result, many have turned to digital payments. Digital wallets like Purpl and peer-to-peer money transfer apps allowing users to pay businesses directly have become a lifeline for the country’s 6.7 million people, many of whom rely on the 15-million-strong Lebanese diaspora to stay afloat. Dima Assad, a manager at Nada Debs, a Beirut-based interior design company, said her company had to switch to a payment gateway called PayTabs, based in the United Arab Emirates, when credit card payments in US dollars were blocked. What’s more, fintech offerings have been a game-changer for the 55% of people in Lebanon who don’t have access to bank accounts. Unbanked people used to line up at Western Union – and paid hefty fees – to send and receive money, but now they can use smartphones or laptops (78% have internet access) to access funds while incurring lower transaction fees. The economic situation in Lebanon remains dire, but digital trade offers a lifeline.

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