Digital technologies are enabling the creation of cheaper, faster, safer and increasingly ubiquitous tools to tackle intractable development challenges. Digital payments are one such transformative development tool that is helping those traditionally excluded by formal financial systems to access, manage and leverage financial services more efficiently and effectively. Having access to these digital payment services and other digital financial services (DFS) including savings accounts, credit and insurance enables those at the base of the economic pyramid to manage their livelihoods and household finances.
As part of USAID’s continuing commitment to digital development, access to DFS and ongoing efforts to promote inclusive economic growth and transparent service delivery, USAID issued a Procurement Executive Bulletin in August 2014 making digital payments the default payment mechanism when feasible, as a means to encourage agency implementing partners to make the transition from cash to digital payments.
As a key agency partner and advocate for digital payment solutions, NetHope works closely with USAID to develop tools and guidance to support organizations in adopting digital payments in their programs and operations. To assist in this transition, NetHope released a practical 10-step toolkit in collaboration with USAID’s Global Development Lab to help development organizations and USAID implementing partners analyze their existing payment streams, evaluate market options and digital payment service providers, and make the transition step by step.
USAID and NetHope also delivered case-based training to groups of USAID implementing partners in Cambodia, Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. Facilitated by NetHope and funded by USAID, these workshops can be requested by USAID Missions and are designed to provide an overview of the topic with a practical focus on how to transition to digital payments and gain facilitated interaction with digital payment service providers in the market.
In July 2015, NetHope held such a workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe, where 40 participants from 24 NGOs participated and made linkages with several digital payment service providers. Following the training, USAID announced an RFA for three small grants to support organizations working in Zimbabwe to begin their journey from cash to digital payments. In January 2016, six-month grants were disbursed to Family Aids Caring Trust (FACT), Mavambo Orphan Care (MOC) and World Vision Zimbabwe (WVZ). The timing of these grants turned out to be most opportune as Zimbabwe began to face a stifling cash shortage during project implementation, rendering digital payments a necessity – no longer just an option.
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