SBP Governor Dr. Reza Baqir's 3-Year Term Saw Expansion & Modernization of Financial Services in Pakistan

Pakistan's chief central banker Dr. Reza Baqir's 3-year term saw a broad expansion and modernization of the nation's financial services industry. The impact of Baqir's policies can be seen in multiple sectors including agriculture, housing, manufacturing, exports, financial digitization and record-high investments in technology startups. Supported by Dr. Baqir's accommodative monetary policy during the COVID19 pandemic, Pakistan poverty headcount, as measured at the lower-middle-income class line of US$3.20 PPP 2011 per day, declined from 37% in FY2020 to 34% in FY2021, according to the World Bank's Pakistan Development Update 2022 released this month. The report said Pakistan's real GDP shrank by 1% in FY20, followed by 5.6% growth in FY21.  Pakistan’s economy created 5.5 million jobs during the past three years –on an average 1.84 million jobs a year, which is far higher than yearly average of creation of new jobs during the 2008-18 decade, according to the Labor Force Survey (LFS) published by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS). 


SBP Accomplishments on Dr. Reza Baqir's Watch 1. Source: SBP


State Bank of Pakistan's TERF (Temporary Economic Refinance Facility) helped drive double-digit growth in large scale manufacturing (LSM) and its RDA (Roshan Digital Accounts) simplified overseas Pakistanis' investment and boosted the nation's foreign exchange reserves. 

SBP Accomplishments on Dr. Reza Baqir's Watch 2. Source: SBP


Under Dr. Reza Baqir's leadership, the SBP supported the Rozgar Scheme, Loan Extension and Restructuring Package, and RFCC (Refinance Facility to Counter Covid) to deal with the economic impact of the COVID pandemic. To promote digital payments, the SBP waived all charges for customers using online fund transfer services. Further, to ease on-boarding of new customers to use online banking channels, the SBP waived the requirement of biometric verification to activate internet and mobile banking accounts. 

World Bank Pakistan Update 2022:

A World Bank report released in April 2022 credited the PTI government led by former Prime Minister Imran Khan for timely policy measures, particularly the Ehsaas program, for mitigating the adverse socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here's an excerpt of the report titled Pakistan Development Update 2022

"The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) lowered the policy rate and announced supportive measures for the financial sector to help businesses and the Government expanded the national cash transfer program (Ehsaas) on an emergency basis. These measures contributed to economic growth rebounding to 5.6 percent in FY21.  However, long-standing structural weaknesses of the economy, particularly consumption-led growth, low private investment rates, and weak exports have constrained productivity growth and pose risks to a sustained recovery. Aggregate demand pressures have built up, in part due to previously accommodative fiscal and monetary policies, contributing to double-digit inflation and a sharp rise in the import bill with record-high trade deficits in H1 FY22 (Jul–Dec 2021). These have diminished the real purchasing power of households and weighed on the exchange rate and the country’s limited external buffers." 

Digital Banking:

Digital transactions in Pakistan soared 31.1% to Rs. 88 trillion or $500 Billion in fiscal year 2020-21, according to the nation's top central banker. “If the figure is $500 billion now, you can imagine the pace at which we are digitizing,” said Dr. Baqir Raza, Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, adding that those transactions showed a year-on-year growth of 30.6% in volume and 31.1% in value. The nation's central bank also reported that the large-value payments segment, known as Real-time Inter-Bank Settlement Mechanism (PRISM),  saw growth of 60% by volume and 12.8% by value to Rs. 444.6 trillion or $2.5 trillion in FY 2020-21. There are several factors driving rapid shift to digital technology, including expanding digital infrastructure, new technologies and the government's efforts to document Pakistan's huge undocumented economy. Grey-listing of Pakistan by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has also played a role. 


Internet & Mobile Banking in Pakistan. Source: SBP

Digital Transactions Growth: 

Growth in digital transactions was led by major uptake in mobile banking (29% increase in the number of users and 133.6% and 178.7% hike in volume and value, respectively) and internet banking (32% increase in the number of users and 65.1% and 91.7% up in volume and value, respectively), according to the State Bank of Pakistan. “If the figure is $500 billion now, you can imagine the pace at which we are digitizing,” said Dr. Baqir Raza, the head of Pakistan's central bank.“Therefore, there is a huge potential for enhancing financial inclusion,” he added. 

E-Banking in Pakistan. Source: Dawn

Pakistan's central bankers have taken the plunge into the world of digital payments with their own offering: Raast. It aims to create an instant low-cost payment system that can seamlessly and securely connect government entities, a variety of banks, including microfinance banks (MFBs),  electronic money institutions (EMIs) and State Bank authorized payment service providers (PSPs) like 1Link and NIFT which may choose to take advantage of it.  Currency and coins in circulation account for about 43% of Pakistan's total money supply. The introduction of Raast is part of the government's effort to modernize and document the nation's cash-based informal economy. Undocumented economy poses a serious threat to the country because it creates opportunities for criminal activities and tax evasion. Digital financial services will also promote e-commerce in Pakistan. 

Raast Digital Payment System. Source: State Bank of Pakistan



Raast Digital Payments:

Raast is a system of digital payment infrastructure. It is essentially a pipe that is intended to connect government and financial institutions with consumers and merchants with each other to process payments instantly at very low cost.  

Raast will be boosted by Pakistan government's decision to use it to pay salaries, pensions and pay welfare recipients under Benazir Income Support and Ehsaas Emergency Cash programs. 


It has been developed in-house by the State Bank of Pakistan  in collaboration with Karandaaz, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and supported by the World Bank, the British government and the United Nations.

Private Payment Apps:

Several private payment apps, including EasyPaisa and JazzCash, are already operating in Pakistan. These apps lack interoperability with each other. Each operates in its own silo. Neither of these offer links to financial institutions and government entities. 

There are also several EMIs (Electronic Money institutions) in Pakistan. These include NayaPay, SadaPay and Finja.  EMIs are not banks, but can store deposits. These are not tied to any banks or telcos. They could all use back-end plumbing offered by Raast. 

Payment Service Providers (PSPs) :

1Link and NIFT payment and switch networks, supported by different groups of Pakistani financial institutions, currently process the bulk of credit/debit card and ATM transactions as well as e-payments in Pakistan. State Bank's Raast promises to be cheaper and faster than these networks. Raast also offers processing of e-payments by government entities. 

Raast Future Roadmap:

State Bank of Pakistan  intends to demonstrate Raast's usefulness by first processing government payments to individuals, including government employees and Ehsaas welfare beneficiaries, before expanding it for business applications.  SBP’s plan is to start person-to-person (P2P) payments using just the phone numbers in Q3/2021 and then bring merchants on board with QR codes by Q1/2022. 


Summary:

 Dr. Reza Baqir's 3 years as Pakistan's top central banker saw a broad expansion and modernization of the nation's financial services industry. The impact of Dr. Baqir's policies can been seen in multiple sectors including agriculture, housing, digitization and record-high investments in technology startups. Digital transactions in Pakistan soared 31% to $500 billion in FY 2020-21. Among the factors driving rapid shift to digital technology are: expanding digital infrastructure, new technologies and the government's efforts to document Pakistan's huge undocumented economy. Grey-listing of Pakistan by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has also played a role.  The State Bank of Pakistan's launch of Raast digital payment infrastructure represents a great leap forward for the use of financial technology (FinTech) and financial inclusion in the  country.  It will also promote e-commerce in Pakistan. Undocumented economy poses a serious threat to the country because it creates opportunities for criminal activities and tax evasion.  Raast is part of the government's effort to modernize payment systems and document the nation's cash-based informal economy. 

Speaking with CNN"s Julia Chatterly, the State Bank of Pakistan Governor Reza Baqar said last year that the Pakistani government is currently studying the idea of issuing central bank digital currency (CBDC). China is showing Pakistan the way with its CBDC. There will be an announcement on the country's CBDC in the next several months. Because CBDC is issued by the central bank, it can help the country fight crime and corruption. Pakistan is also promoting digital payments to enhance financial inclusion and document the economy. Eliminating digital payment fees during the covid pandemic has resulted in 100%-200% jump in such transactions. He said fintech companies and digital payment processors like Stripe are welcome to operate in Pakistan. It has the world's 5th largest population with young demographics offering tremendous growth opportunity.


Here's a brief video of Dr. Reza Baqir's CNN interview with Julia Chatterly:

https://youtu.be/BZ8MAi-_Qb4


Comments

Riaz Haq said…
The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) decision of allowing commercial banks to extend cheaper loans for conversion of tube-well operations to solar power for availing the net metering facility, the power distribution companies have started receiving an overwhelming response from such consumers across the country.



https://www.dawn.com/news/1679520



Under the provisions, the tube-well connections seeking net metering on a load up to 25kW will not require permission from the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) for the grant of generation licence, Dawn has learnt.

The facility will not only convert most such connections on solar but also enable consumers to produce and use the electricity on their own besides selling the additional/surplus to the respective Discos. It will also control the technical and commercial losses (power losses either due to theft or technical reasons).

“The tube-well connections can be converted to net-metering but the response was not good due to considerable investment (around Rs2 to 3 million on each connection), lack of loaning facility and awareness. Now the SBP has announced a loaning facility on a six per cent markup for launching such small schemes,” explained Lahore Electric Supply Company’s Market Implementation and Regulatory Affairs Director-General Altaf Qadir while talking to Dawn.

Moreover, the increasing power tariff due to fuel price adjustment and other issues have forced consumers having tube-well connections to contact us in this regard,” he added.

The net metering project had been launched in 2016 countrywide. It allows any domestic, commercial, industrial and other consumers having at least a three-phase meter connection to be part of the power generation system by installing it on his/her premises (house, shop, factory, open spaces, etc). Under the arrangements, such a consumer may sell the additional energy to the respective power distribution company and make stocktaking (calculations) with it at the end of the month.

Since the system allows the consumers to generate electricity from one kilowatt to one megawatt, Nepra issues licences to the applicants residing in the service area jurisdiction of all distribution companies. Before issuance of the licence, the respective companies are supposed to receive, scrutinise and process such applications.

According to Mr Qadir, there are hundreds of thousands of tube-well connections in the service areas of all nine Discos including Lesco, Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (Fesco), Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco), Gujaranwala Electric Power Company (Gepco), Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO), Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco), Tribal Area Electric Supply Company (Tesco), Quetta Electric Supply Company (Qesco), Sukkar Electric Power Company (Sepco) and Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco).

It may be mentioned that most of such connections exist in a vast rural area of Mepco. The number here ranges between 60,000 to 70,000. Similarly, Lesco has 25,000 to 30,000 connections and most exist in the areas of its Kasur and Okara circles. Qesco, Gepco, Pesco, Hesco, Sepco and other companies also have a large number of such connections.

Answering a question Mr Qadir said Lesco has so far processed as many 6,000 net metering related applications out of which most (equaling to 100MW or so) have been issued generation licence by Nepra.

Riaz Haq said…
The Indian economy is being rewired. The opportunity is immense
And so are the stakes

https://www.economist.com/leaders/2022/05/13/the-indian-economy-is-being-rewired-the-opportunity-is-immense

As the country emerges from the pandemic, however, a new pattern of growth is visible. It is unlike anything you have seen before. An indigenous tech effort is key. As the cost of technology has dropped, India has rolled out a national “tech stack”: a set of state-sponsored digital services that link ordinary Indians with an electronic identity, payments and tax systems, and bank accounts. The rapid adoption of these platforms is forcing a vast, inefficient, informal cash economy into the 21st century. It has turbocharged the world’s third-largest startup scene after America’s and China’s.

Alongside that, global trends are creating bigger business clusters. The it-services industry has doubled in size in a decade, helped by the cloud and a worldwide shortage of software workers. Where else can Western firms find half a million new engineers a year? There is a renewable-energy investment spree: India ranks third for solar installations and is pioneering green hydrogen. As firms everywhere reconfigure supply chains to lessen their reliance on China, India’s attractions as a manufacturing location have risen, helped by a $26bn subsidy scheme. Western governments are keen to forge defence and technology links. India has also found a workaround to redistribute more to ordinary folk who vote but rarely see immediate gains from economic reforms: a direct, real-time, digital welfare system that in 36 months has paid $200bn to about 950m people.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan to launch digital ID wallet this year
By Daniel Tost - March 8, 2022, 6:19 pm

https://www.globalgovernmentfintech.com/pakistan-to-launch-digital-id-wallet-this-year/


Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) is planning to roll out a digital identity wallet later this year in a move that will end the need for physical ID.

NADRA is tasked with digitising all citizen data in the country, which – with more than 220 million citizens – is the fifth biggest in the world in terms of population.

As part of a digital push aimed at generating benefits including greater financial inclusion, the authority is working on a significant evolution of the existing ‘Pak-ID’ smartphone app – which was itself only introduced seven months ago, the authority’s chairman Tariq Malik told Pakistani media Dawn.

Launched last September, Pak-ID allows citizens to apply for a physical ID card remotely by using their Android or iOS device to scan documents and biometric data including their fingerprints and take a picture to verify their identity. When it was introduced, NADRA proclaimed that Pakistan had become ‘the first country in the world to introduce ID technology’. Two weeks later, the authority launched a similar biometric verification service for the banking and payments industry. With five banks initially participating, the service enables customers to open bank accounts and undertake biometric authenticated financial transactions using a mobile-phone camera.

Hailing Pak-ID’s debut, prime minister Imran Khan called the app “a revolutionary step in providing convenience, especially to overseas Pakistanis”. It seems these expats have at least partly driven the decision to launch the digital identity wallet by updating the Pak-ID app. “In a short span, 75,000 overseas Pakistanis have processed their national identity cards from the comfort of their homes by using the app,” Malik told Dawn. “With successful testing on 75,000 overseas Pakistanis, NADRA will go for a digital wallet.”

The wallet would be “a leap forward putting an end to the conventional physical ID” and is to be made available “later this year”, Malik said. “The digital dividends of such technology innovation will yield positive results in contactless banking, financial inclusion, ease of doing business and e-governance initiatives by offering remote identification and e-KYC [know-your-customer procedures].”
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan to launch digital ID wallet this year
By Daniel Tost - March 8, 2022, 6:19 pm

https://www.globalgovernmentfintech.com/pakistan-to-launch-digital-id-wallet-this-year/

Focus on unregistered citizens
As of January, 96 per cent of Pakistan’s adult (above 18) population, have a Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC), according to Islamabad-headquartered NADRA. Pakistan started rolling out its Smart National Identity Card (SNIC) in 2012 in a programme overseen by NADRA and aimed at replacing CNICs. Currently, both types of cards remain valid.

Recently, NADRA has focused on unregistered individuals (citizens without an identity card) by creating an ‘Inclusive Registration Department’. Its aim is to enhance registration, especially for women, minorities, transgender and unregistered persons. The agency targeted 80 districts with a gender gap of more than 10 per cent in registration figures. Eighteen female-only NADRA centres were opened to overcome socio-cultural barriers of women cautious about dealing with male staff. Additionally, 262 mobile registration vans and 80 ‘ManPack’ mobile units have been deployed countrywide for people living in remote areas or senior citizens who may struggle to travel. In total there are more than 700 registration centres operating countrywide and in all 154 districts of Pakistan. According to a NADRA press notice issued last month, the gender gap has been reduced by 40 per cent in targeted districts.

NADRA says it holds the largest biometric database of citizens in the world. The security of such a stock of citizen data is clearly important but the authority states that its SNIC is equipped with 36 security features, using a layering system to safeguard sensitive information.

Principles for interoperable ID
Pakistan’s move comes against the international backdrop of high-level principles to support the development of mutually recognised and interoperable digital ID systems and infrastructure having been drafted by a working group on digital identity comprising representatives from eight countries.

The 11 principles call for digital ID infrastructure to be open; transparent; reusable; user-centric; inclusive and accessible; multilingual; secure and private; technologically neutral and compatible with data portability; administratively simple; able to preserve information; and effective and efficient.

In its report, the Digital Identity Working Group (DIWG) said its goal is to enhance trade agreements and to ‘facilitate economic recovery from Covid-19, for example to support the opening of domestic and international borders’.

Established in 2020, DIWG comprises Australia, Canada, Finland, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, the Netherlands and the UK. It is chaired by Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan to launch digital ID wallet this year
By Daniel Tost - March 8, 2022, 6:19 pm

https://www.globalgovernmentfintech.com/pakistan-to-launch-digital-id-wallet-this-year/

Focus on unregistered citizens
As of January, 96 per cent of Pakistan’s adult (above 18) population, have a Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC), according to Islamabad-headquartered NADRA. Pakistan started rolling out its Smart National Identity Card (SNIC) in 2012 in a programme overseen by NADRA and aimed at replacing CNICs. Currently, both types of cards remain valid.

Recently, NADRA has focused on unregistered individuals (citizens without an identity card) by creating an ‘Inclusive Registration Department’. Its aim is to enhance registration, especially for women, minorities, transgender and unregistered persons. The agency targeted 80 districts with a gender gap of more than 10 per cent in registration figures. Eighteen female-only NADRA centres were opened to overcome socio-cultural barriers of women cautious about dealing with male staff. Additionally, 262 mobile registration vans and 80 ‘ManPack’ mobile units have been deployed countrywide for people living in remote areas or senior citizens who may struggle to travel. In total there are more than 700 registration centres operating countrywide and in all 154 districts of Pakistan. According to a NADRA press notice issued last month, the gender gap has been reduced by 40 per cent in targeted districts.

NADRA says it holds the largest biometric database of citizens in the world. The security of such a stock of citizen data is clearly important but the authority states that its SNIC is equipped with 36 security features, using a layering system to safeguard sensitive information.

Principles for interoperable ID
Pakistan’s move comes against the international backdrop of high-level principles to support the development of mutually recognised and interoperable digital ID systems and infrastructure having been drafted by a working group on digital identity comprising representatives from eight countries.

The 11 principles call for digital ID infrastructure to be open; transparent; reusable; user-centric; inclusive and accessible; multilingual; secure and private; technologically neutral and compatible with data portability; administratively simple; able to preserve information; and effective and efficient.

In its report, the Digital Identity Working Group (DIWG) said its goal is to enhance trade agreements and to ‘facilitate economic recovery from Covid-19, for example to support the opening of domestic and international borders’.

Established in 2020, DIWG comprises Australia, Canada, Finland, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, the Netherlands and the UK. It is chaired by Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency.
Riaz Haq said…
SBP
@StateBank_Pak
Another milestone achieved by #SBP in the journey of digitization, as number of #Raast IDs registration crosses 10 million mark since its launch in Feb22. Aggregated value of Person to Person (P2P) Transactions using #Raast system by customers crosses Rs36bn.

https://twitter.com/StateBank_Pak/status/1526174517910986755?s=20&t=aqY9b05RSGuFWfapw2ib7w
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan’s new gov't faces a politically fraught decision on whether to remove a costly #fuel subsidy that helps #inflation-buffeted households but also has led the #IMF to suspend loans. The subsidy costs the government $600 million a month. https://www.wsj.com/articles/pakistan-faces-painful-choice-as-inflation-batters-economy-11652883774 via @WSJ

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who leads a coalition that took power in April, must decide whether to take the politically risky step of removing a fuel subsidy that was put in place by the previous government after the Ukraine war erupted in February. The subsidy costs the government $600 million a month.

The International Monetary Fund, which suspended the country’s lending program over the fuel subsidy, began talks Wednesday with Mr. Sharif’s government on restarting the loans.

Across the developing world, debt and fiscal budgets were already stretched by the Covid-19 pandemic before the Ukraine war led to a steep rise in energy and food import costs. An analysis by J.P. Morgan found that Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable developing countries to rising commodity prices, along with Egypt and Sri Lanka, where an economic crisis has led to power outages and shortages of basic goods.

So far, the government has kept the fuel subsidy, saying they can’t impose more hardship on the population. The price of flour jumped 42% in one week, according to government data released May 12. Inflation is the issue voters care most about, according to surveys. A poll by Gallup Pakistan in April found that of those who approved of the removal that month of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, 71% cited his government’s record on inflation as the reason.

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To shore up foreign-exchange reserves, the government is banking on Saudi Arabia and China providing billions of dollars in more loans, Pakistani officials say, in addition to the IMF.

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Saad Siddiqui, managing director for emerging-markets strategy at J.P. Morgan, said that while governments might think they are shielding their populations against price shocks with subsidies, delaying a return to prudent economic policies could result in greater economic hardship, as a delayed adjustment could potentially be even sharper.

“You have to ask yourself the question: how is the adjustment going to be made?” Mr. Siddiqui said. “Is it going to be made in a controlled way, by increasing fuel prices, which will reduce demand and therefore your import bill and revive the IMF program. Or will it be imposed by a weaker currency, which is going to impact the prices of everything and will be potentially much more disorderly.”
Riaz Haq said…
ZoodPay, a Switzerland-headquartered buy now pay later platform that operates in different Middle Eastern and Central Asian markets has acquired Pakistani consumer lending fintech Tez, it announced in a statement today. The financial details of transaction were not disclosed but the statement noted that it is the first M&A deal in Pakistan’s young fintech space.

https://www.menabytes.com/zoodpay-tez/

Founded in 2016 by Naureen Hyat and Humza Hussain, Tez offers nano-loans to unbanked and underbanked population across Pakistan through its digital platform. According to its website, it offers personal loans of up to PKR 10,000 ($50) that the users can pay back in installments. Tez has a fixed one-time fee for these loans, ranging between 10 to 20 percent depending on the loan amount and customer profile.

Backed by Accion, Flourish Ventures (Omidyar Network), Planet N, the startup had become the first licensed Non-Bank Financial Company (NBFC) in Pakistan in 2018, it said in a statement. It had raised over $1 million to date in financing. The Karachi-headquartered fintech had also won $100,000 in Visa Everywhere Initiative for Women competition, in 2019.

Commenting on the acqusition, co-founders of Tez said, “We started Tez with an ambition to make access to finance for the masses as easy as access to a mobile phone. We are humbled and thrilled by the confidence shown in our business model by larger regional players and look forward to the next level of development for Tez where our learnings in crafting the digital lending journey and managing risk can serve as a foundation for delivering consumer-centric lending solutions at scale, while creating credit histories for the masses.”

ZoodPay which currently operates in Joran, Iraq, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan has raised close to $50 million from Zain Ventures and Sturgeon Capital. With the acquisition of Tez, ZoodPay would expand its offerings to Pakistan.

“The company’s lending strategy is fortified by three integral elements of digital infrastructure including, (i) Acquisition of consumers and merchants via its diverse distribution channels including its own e-commerce marketplace and network of retailers and partners, (ii) Deriving rich transactional data from its internal universe of fintech, e-commerce marketplace and logistics, and (iii) Leveraging its proprietary credit scoring algorithms to assess credit risk and extend credit to both consumers and merchants,” stated the fintech in a statement.

It is not immediately clear if ZoodPay plans to launch its BNPL product in Pakistan.

Michael Khoi, CEO of ZoodPay said, “Pakistan is a market brimming with potential given the number of people seeking access to credit facilities. We’re confident that by combining ZoodPay’s unique ecosystem and experience operating in frontier markets with Tez’s local know-how, strong team and ecosystem partnerships, we’ll be able to positively impact the life of Pakistani people and empower them by giving them access to easy, affordable and reliable digital financial services.”

Nadeem Hussain, Chairman of Tez said, “The Pakistani startup ecosystem has hit its inflection point. In addition to sizable fundraises, acquisitions of local players by international players are starting to take place. This further validates the global value Pakistani startups are creating. Planet N was one of the first in the market to invest in startups. We are now seeing the first-mover advantage.”

Riaz Haq said…
SBP
@StateBank_Pak
#SBP to launch #EasyData, an interactive data portal that allows easy access to a wide range of economic data sets. Watch live on 01 June, 2022 at 4pm @
https://www.facebook.com/StateBankPakistan

https://twitter.com/StateBank_Pak/status/1531632755146203136?s=20&t=b80t9B6KFWMv8SZek7wUIg

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‘Good quality data critical for Pakistan’s sound policy making’

https://www.thenews.com.pk/amp/777020-good-quality-data-critical-for-pakistan-s-sound-policy-making


Dr Shamshad, who is also the Chairperson of Karandaaz Pakistan (KRN), talking about the significance of credible data for policymakers, stated that the KRN working with the government, regulator and all stakeholders to realise the vision of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy and meet the targets of enhancing financial inclusion across gender and geography. “Timely and reliable statistics and data portal will play a critical role in the design of futuristic policies and monitoring of ground progress. Devising strategies can lead the country towards sustained financial progress”, she observed.

Dr Shamshad said the policymakers, development partners, corporates, researchers and academia, and entrepreneurs, all have a need for statistics on the financial sector for identifying trends, learning from successes, ascertaining gaps, and mapping a necessary course of action in order to make interventions that can reap the best dividends for the economy. “Informed decisions backed by metrics, facts, and figures are the best decisions so a sophisticated data portal, where information is available for sound decision making, is critical”, she added.

Speaking on the occasion, the SBP Deputy Governor Sima Kamil said that as a regulator of the financial sector of any country, the central bank’s reliance on credible data for making policies that are likely to trigger growth and progress are fundamental. Although there is a lot of data available out there, there is a definite need for a consolidated source that is perceived as unbiased, credible, and pro-growth, she observed.

She hoped that this data portal that has been developed by Karandaaz will serve as a credible resource for government agencies, the financial sector, industry associations, and development agencies to gather invaluable insights and evidence on the most important indicators for planning and policymaking.

Head of Development of UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) Annabel Gerry in Pakistan in her message stated that the good, reliable and easy-to-understand data was essential for measuring impact and formulation of evidence based policies.

CEO Karandaaz Ali Sarfraz, speaking on the occasion, said that the importance of data to make informed decision making identify effective public and private actions, set goals and targets, monitor progress, and evaluate impacts cannot be stressed enough. “We have endeavored that Karandaaz data portal offers a host of macro, financial and sectoral statistics in a user-friendly interface that can also be customised by the users”, he added.

The Karandaaz Pakistan launched an online data portal with aggregated data on financial services and selected socio-economic indicators for the country. The data on the portal covers segments such as demographics, national economic data, agriculture finance, financial access, and behaviors of individuals, banking infrastructure and transactions, micro, agri, and SME financing, housing finance, non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs), mobile money, and telecommunications statistics.

The portal is interactive, intuitive, visually appealing and easy to navigate. It also offers the capability to generate bespoke data dashboards and has filtering and layering functionality.
Riaz Haq said…
Non-bank finance firms disbursed over Rs6.14bn loans digitally

https://www.dawn.com/news/1673391/non-bank-finance-firms-disbursed-over-rs614bn-loans-digitally


Licensed digital lending Non-Bank Finance Companies (NBFCs) have made rapid progress and started to show disruption in Pakistan’s lending landscape and are proving to be significant in furthering the journey of financial inclusion, data shared by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) showed on Friday.

The SECP has licensed six fintech-enabled NBFCs, which have collectively reached out to 365,239 borrowers with disbursement of over Rs6,139 million through 858,998 loans, which signifies that many borrowers have obtained more than one loan from these lenders.

The data released by the SECP shows that the average loans size of these digitally-enabled NBFCs ran­ges from Rs1,000 to Rs80,000 depen­ding upon the nature of business and target market of these entities.

“These are small loans available easily for the borrowers, but since these are digital-based, the borrowers cannot default and ignore the repayment,” said a senior official of the SECP adding that the data of defaulters is shared with the State Bank of Pakistan as a result the defaulter cannot avail any other financial service.


The official added under this lending mode, the small amount request by the borrower is credited into the digital wallet of the borrower within few hours as digital processing of the loan is fast and does not require any guarantee.

Newly licensed digital lending NBFCs include Finja Lending Ser­vices Limited, SeedCred Financial Services Limited, Qisstpay BNPL Limited, Tez Financial Services Limited, Cashew Financial Ser­vices Limited and CreditFix Fina­ncial Services Limited. These NBFCs are providing financial solutions to otherwise unserved and underserved through digital means and include Nano lending, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Lending and Buy-Now-Pay-Later models etc.

All of these licences have been issued during the last three years to NBFCs that are engaged in digital lending using innovative fintech solutions.

The first fintech-enabled NBFC licence was issued in 2019 and only 55,528 requests were honoured, disbursing Rs495 million, while by the end of 2021, the six licence holders disbursed a total of Rs6.13 billion to 365,239 borrowers.

“This is a solution to the traditional complaint that the banks were not interested in small loans, and the majority of borrowers were those who either did not possessed credit cards or wanted to spend the amount in any sector which does not deal in credit cards,” the official added.

The SECP has said that fresh applications have been received for NBFC licence from investors who intend to engage in fintech based lending.
Riaz Haq said…
NADRA Launches Digital Payment System to Replace ATM


NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority) just recently announced the arrival of its new e-payment system which is proclaimed as the final blow to ATM usage around the country. Claimed to be the replacement for ATMs, the e-payment solution will allow users to make easy electronic payments.

Alongside NADRA, 1Link also played an important role in building the e-payment solution. Once widely in use, this will be Pakistan’s biggest and most fully accredited payment gateway system. NADRA adds this new venture into its already successful catalog of solutions named as ‘e-sahulat’.


https://www.techjuice.pk/nadra-launches-digital-payment-system-to-replace-atm/


With the launch, NADRA will start its mission of transforming over 17,000 e-Sahulat locations into full-featured ATMs. These locations will then also provide users with a number of different online payment options.

NADRA Chairman Tariq Malik and 1Link CEO Najeeb Agrawal signed the contract on Monday. Chairman Malik on the occasion said that NADRA for a long time has been trying to enhance its e-governance services by empowering organizations from both the public and private sectors.

““We are enhancing state capacity to deliver digital public goods and move towards electronic financial transactions for transparency and accountability. This would enable financial inclusion as well.” said Malik about the new e-payment solution.

Malik in his speech also claimed for NADRA’s e-sahulat is the most cutting-edge digital service for financial payments. Now with an e-payment solution coming into play, around 17,000 NADRA e-sahulat centers will be able to quadruple their capacity.

According to NADRA, we will soon see the e-payment platform in rural areas of Pakistan as well. Now, this is a great initiative since it will allow ease of business and increase rural contribution to the digital economy.


Riaz Haq said…
VEON Subsidiary Pushes Digital Inclusion in Pakistan

Tommy Clift | Reporter

https://www.sdxcentral.com/articles/news/veon-subsidiary-pushes-digital-inclusion-in-pakistan/2022/09/

Mobilink Microfinance Bank (MMBL) launched a trio of initiatives to accelerate financial inclusion for farmers and female entrepreneurs in Pakistan. The move echoes another by its parent company VEON to promote digital access through its subsidiary Kyvistar.

The MMBL plans include an agriculture advisory service for Pakistani farmers, e-commerce services for female entrepreneurs, and 4G handsets. VEON CEO Kaan Terzioglu believes the initiatives will play a pivotal role in digitalizing the microfinance industry in Pakistan.


VEON noted in a statement that agriculture represents nearly 23% of Pakistan’s gross domestic product and employs approximately 37% of its workforce. Recent floods in the country destroyed 3.6 million acres of crops and killed 700,000 livestock, it added.

MMBL is partnering with Pakistan-based agricultural technology company BaKhabar Kissan to provide information and guidance on livestock management, weather monitoring, crop planting – including which are profitable, and boosting agricultural yields.

“We are aiming to build a digital infrastructure that will help further economic prosperity and financial empowerment among women business owners and small and medium-sized farmers in the country, two segments that have the potential to transform Pakistan’s economic future,” MMBL President and CEO Ghazanfar Azzam stated.

Their push to incentivize and advance female entrepreneurs comes with their collaboration with Pakistan e-commerce platforms Daraz and its flagship Women Inspirational Network (WIN) program. This is intend to promote a female-focused, “digital financial ecosystem” using their subscriber base – currently accounting for 53% of the 195 million cellular subscribers in Pakistan, according to VEON.

Women make up nearly half of the country’s population, but VEON notes “their financial inclusion figure stands at 7%.”

The new program will use the Digit 4G handsets to “drive participation in the digital economy among marginalized groups within the population.” The handsets will be discounted and targeted at female entrepreneurs, coming “pre-loaded with the digital banking application, MMBL DOST, which will enable customers to obtain quick financial assistance, pay bills, make money transfers, and use a vast array of digital banking services,” VEON explained.
Riaz Haq said…
World's highest #ATM奴: #Pakistan's mountaintop bank machine at 4,693m elevation, the #Khunjerab pass is the world's highest paved border crossing. It has been serving the small number of residents, border staff & tourists – since 2016. #China #Pakistan https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20221003-the-worlds-highest-atm-pakistans-mountaintop-bank-machine?ocid=ww.social.link.twitter

The Guinness World Record-holding machine works like any other; it can be used to withdraw cash, pay utility bills and make interbank fund transfers. But as my kids and I acclimated to the dip in oxygen, what struck me most was the unexpected festivity in the atmosphere: almost carnivalesque, with people FaceTiming relatives, posing for photos and orbiting the ATM to get the best selfie shot.

Karachi school teacher Atiya Saeed had brought 39 of her secondary-school students – all girls – here to the Pakistan-China border. "It's the first time in a long time that we've travelled in Pakistan," she said.

Although they didn't come for the ATM alone, the visit to the border was, she explained, an adventurous geography, history and economics lesson in the most hauntingly beautiful of "classrooms".

Constructed by the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) in 2016, the solar- and wind-powered machine serves the small number of residents and staff at this border crossing – and the adventurous travellers who flock to it as a badge of honour, taking pictures while making a transaction that brings new meaning to the phrase "cold, hard cash".

"My account is frozen!" joked another visitor, South African retired principal Ayesha Bayat, who was on holiday with her husband. "We've come from a country where we do have mountain ranges… but not like this. I'm finding the panoramic views absolutely beautiful," she said.

"It's important to have landmarks… like the Eiffel Tower," said Bayat's husband, Farouk. "They become an excuse to discover the rest of the landscape."

But building this landmark was no small feat. And neither is maintaining it.

The project took around four months, said NBP ATM monitoring officer Shah Bibi. The closest NBP bank location is 87km away in Sost, and Sost branch manager Zahid Hussain regularly travels back and forth, braving extreme weather, treacherous mountain passes and frequent landslides to replenish the ATM. "On average, around 4 to 5 million rupees [£15,540–£19,427] is withdrawn within the span of 15 days," he said.

Riaz Haq said…
Waada Buys Rival to Become Pakistan’s Top Insurance-Tech Startup
Pakistan’s insurance penetration is 0.7%, trailing neighbors
Nation to see further consolidation as funding slows: investor
---------------

Waada becomes largest technology led insurance start-up in Pakistan - 24/7 News

https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/international/2022/11/07/693869.htm

Pakistani online insurance startup Waada acquired a local rival to create the South Asian nation’s largest player in the field, seeking to benefit from growth in the burgeoning market.

The Karachi-based company took over MicroEnsure Pakistan, a unit of MIC Global operating in South Asia and Africa, in an all-stock deal, according to a statement Friday. The brands combined have 1.5 million active customers, Waada said, without disclosing the deal value. Waada also said it’s closed a seed round of $1.3 million from local angel investors and foreign venture capital firms.


Pakistani online insurance startup Waada acquired a local rival to create the South Asian nation’s largest player in the field, seeking to benefit from growth in the burgeoning market.

The Karachi-based company took over MicroEnsure Pakistan, a unit of MIC Global operating in South Asia and Africa, in an all-stock deal, according to a statement Friday. The brands combined have 1.5 million active customers, Waada said, without disclosing the deal value. Waada also said it’s closed a seed round of $1.3 million from local angel investors and foreign venture capital firms.

----------

https://247news.com.pk/waada-becomes-largest-technology-led-insurance-start-up-in-pakistan/

Waada, The Insurance start-up has announce that the company has become the largest player among all technology-led start-ups in the country’s insurance segment after acquiring its rival company MicroEnsure Pakistan.

The Announcement was made on the startup’s Social media handle LinkedIn, In the announcement, it has been confirmed that deal has been locked however, company has not disclosed the details of the deal yet.

Separately, the company also announced a $1.3 million seed funding round. According to international news agency, the all-stock deal will bring the number of active customers of Wada to 1.5 million. “Waada aims to add customers using online sign-ups and has a goal to distribute 10m policies in three to five years,” it said.
Riaz Haq said…
5G technology to be launched next year

https://www.nation.com.pk/06-Dec-2022/5g-technology-to-be-launched-next-year

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication is likely to launch 5G technology next year in the country to cope with the challenges of the digital world. The official of ministry of IT and telecommunication said that the provision of broadband services across the country was the topmost priority of the ministry of IT. He said that the ministry of IT through the Universal Service Fund (USF) had launched some 70 projects of optical fiber cable (OFC) and broadband infrastructure development in four provinces at a cost of Rs 65 billion. “All projects are underway in far-flung areas would be completed by June next year,” he added. “In the province of Sindh alone, 20 projects of NGBSD and OFC worth Rs16.3 billion have been started so far in 20 districts, including Tharparkar, Nawabshah, Khairpur, Larkana, Badin, Jacobabad, Shikarpur, Mirpurkhas, and Dadu,” the official said. He said that projects of connectivity of the un-served and underserved communities of Balochistan, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces had also been launched. He said, through USF aimed to connect all the citizens of the country as digitalisation had become a priority for businesses and communities. Under its Next Generation Optic Fiber (NG-OF) Network and Services programme, USF had contracted over 16,000km of Optic Fiber Cable (OFC) to benefit 31.5 million populations across the country.
Riaz Haq said…
Mobile banking doubles, internet banking grows by 51.7% in FY2021-22
As internet banking, POS, and eCommerce transactions post strong growth, the digital payments ecosystem is picking up steam

https://profit.pakistantoday.com.pk/2022/12/23/mobile-banking-doubles-internet-banking-grows-by-51-7-in-fy2021-22/

https://www.sbp.org.pk/PS/PDF/FiscalYear-2021-22.pdf

The past fiscal year has seen a massive increase in the size of the digital payments ecosystem, the State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) Annual Payment Systems Review for 2021-22 revealed. The report says that mobile phone banking increased by 100.4% to 387.5 million, while internet banking grew by 51.7% to 141.7 million during the year.

The impressive numbers come on the back of an important year for the ecosystem that saw a number of milestones. With the SBP backed Raast getting traction, and electronic money institutions (EMIs) gaining popularity among customers, the signs are pointing towards money quickly becoming digital. Cash transactions have also gained momentum with ATM networks proliferating and cash withdrawals from ATMs also posting double digit growth over last year.

The tools for growth

By value, mobile phone banking and internet banking grew strongly by 141.1% and 81.1%, thus, reaching to Rs11.9 trillion and Rs10.2 trillion respectively. Ecommerce transactions also witnessed similar trends as the volume grew by 107.4% to 45.5 million and the value by 74.9% to Rs106 billion.

During FY22, a total of 32,958 Point of Sales (POS) machines were deployed in the country which led to an expansion of its network by 45.8% to 104,865. The total number of transactions through POS, 137.5 million, were 54.5% higher than previous fiscal year with transaction value reaching Rs0.7 trillion growing by 56.1%.

E-commerce merchants registered with the banks increased to 4,887 in FY21-22, from 3,003 merchants during the previous year. In continuation of its efforts to promote and enhance the digital payment system in the country, SBP launched Raast Person-to-Person (P2P), which enabled payments among individuals, businesses and other entities to settle transactions in real-time. According to the report, as of June-22, there were 15 million registered P2P Raast users, carrying out 7.9 million transactions amounting to Rs 102.1 billion in value. Raast was launched in November last year.

The number of large-value transactions through the Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system of Pakistan reached 4.37 million by FY22 amounting to Rs 681.6 trillion with an annual growth of 53.3% in value. During FY22, paper-based transactions declined by 1.0% in volume though its value grew to Rs 190.4 trillion, almost 25.6% higher than last year.

According to the State Bank’s Annual Payment Systems Review, the number of conventional bank account holders increased by 4.5 million, from 63 million account holders in 2021 to 67.5 million in 2022. On the other hand, branchless banking accounts increased from 74.6 million to 88.5 million, a growth of 18.6%.

Give me the cash, but digitally

Considering cash transactions are still predominant, the ATM network in Pakistan needs to be strong to cater to needs. The ATMs network in the country also grew by 4.8% during the year reaching 17,133 ATMs.

A total of 692.3 million transactions were carried out through ATMs which amounted to Rs 9.6 trillion, 19.2% higher than FY21. Meanwhile, cash withdrawals from ATMs picked up from 577.3 million in volume and Rs7.29 trillion in value in 2020-21, to 670.6 million in volume and Rs8.6 trillion in value. That’s a growth of 16.1% in volume and 18% in value over the previous year.

Plastic money on my mind

There were 42.4 million payment cards in circulation in FY22 including 71.1% or 30.16 million debit cards; 24.3% or 10.3 million social welfare cards; 4.2% or 1.79 million credit cards and the rest were pre-paid and ATM only cards.

Riaz Haq said…
Mobile banking doubles, internet banking grows by 51.7% in FY2021-22
As internet banking, POS, and eCommerce transactions post strong growth, the digital payments ecosystem is picking up steam

https://profit.pakistantoday.com.pk/2022/12/23/mobile-banking-doubles-internet-banking-grows-by-51-7-in-fy2021-22/

https://www.sbp.org.pk/PS/PDF/FiscalYear-2021-22.pdf

The overall number of payment cards, however, decreased during the year, from 45.9 million in 2020-21 to 42.4 million in 2021-22.

Bring in the fintech

According to the State Bank’s annual report, the four fully licensed EMIs (electronic money institution); Sadapay, Nayapay, Finja and CMPECC, combined had 262,558 total active accounts and 514,961 payment cards issued to their customers. Last year’s numbers on EMIs were not available for a comparison on how these numbers have grown.

The SBP has in the past has often emphasised on the potential fintech can play to boost digital payments and financial inclusion.

During his speech at the Institute of Banking Pakistan Annual Award Ceremony, Jameel Ahmad, Governor SBP stressed on the need for banks to revisit their traditional approach to service delivery and adapt quickly as digitalization shifts the balance of power from banks to tech savvy entities, hinting at the growing trend in fintech.

“Leveraging digital technology is essential not only to promote financial inclusion, but also to ensure that the industry keeps pace with emerging global trends,” opined Ahmed.

Speaking on the importance of technology, Ahmad quotes M-Pesa, a Kenyan fintech. “An often-cited success story is that of M-Pesa in Kenya, where it single-handedly drove mobile financial services availability and successfully raised financial services access in Kenya. “

Ahmad pointed out that a number of factors already exist in Pakistan that can help drive digital financial innovation and proliferation of a tech-based financial ecosystem. He pointed out that the nation has a fully functional digital ID system, ubiquity of mobile devices, penetration of mobile and broadband services, availability of faster payment rails, remote account opening process, and facilitative regulatory environment for enabling the entry of non-bank entities into the financial arena.

The Central Banker also points out that while fintech has brought competition, it also presents the sector with an opportunity to create synergies and mutually beneficial partnerships.

“Banks and Fintechs can partner with each other to provide innovative products for customers that are otherwise not viable on a standalone basis. For banks, such partnerships can help with penetration in untapped segments like retail businesses and Micro and Small Medium Enterprises, yielding beneficial outcomes for all stakeholders,” he said.

Encouraging the banks that are yet to make consistent and sustained moves toward technological transformation, Ahmad told them to make use of the digital bank frameworks and the instant payment system, RAAST, to position themselves for the future.
Riaz Haq said…
Banks’ income, assets flourish in 1HCY22

https://www.dawn.com/news/1723769

https://www.sbp.org.pk/press/2022/Pr-28-Nov-2022.pdf

Banking in Pakistan flourished during the first half of the calendar year 2022; both assets and income noted a strong increase while the balance sheet of banks expanded by 16 per cent over the same period of last year.

The State Bank issued a “mid-year performance review” (MYPR) of the banking sector for 2022 on Monday.

The review covers the performance and soundness of the banking sector for the January-June period (1HCY22).

It also covers the performance of financial markets and microfinance banks (MFBs), as well as the results of Systemic Risk Survey (SRS), which represents independent respondents’ views about key risks to financial stability.


The sustained economic activity during 1HCY22 supported the expansion of banking sector balance sheet by 16pc during 1HCY22, said the report.

A robust increase in the asset base was mai­nly driven by the flow of private sector advances and increases in investments, particu­larly government securities, said the report.

Investments rose by 22.5pc (Rs3.3 trillion) during 1HCY22. “These funds were almost entirely invested in government securities,” said the SBP report.

Investments in MTBs (market treasury bills) and PIBs (Pakistan Investment Bonds) observed a rise of Rs684 billion and Rs1.7tr, respectively.

Also, Ijara Sukuk attracted substantial bank funds of Rs838 billion in the first half of the present calendar year. Accordingly, the share of MTBs in banks’ total holding of federal government securities declined to 33.6pc by the end of June this year from 46.6pc a year ago. The share of PIBs shot up to 52.6pc from 46pc in June -2021.

“Increased share of long-term investments demonstrates the government’s strategy to improve its debt maturity profile,” said the SBP. The pace of growth in private sector advances during 1HCY22 was the highest in comparable periods of the previous three years. Improved manufacturing activity, as reflected in double-digit growth in the Large-Scale Manufacturing (LSM) index during 1HCY22, higher input prices and SBP’s refinance schemes augmented the overall flow of advances.

Individuals and the sugar sector availed a major chunk of financing, followed by the textile sector.

However, the monetary policy announced on Nov 24 had said that in line with the slowdown in economic activity, private sector credit continued to moderate, increasing only by Rs86.2 billion during Q1 FY23 (July 1 to Sept 30, 2022), compared to Rs226.4 billion during the same period last year.

This deceleration was mainly due to a significant decline in working capital loans to wholesale and retail trade services, as well as to the textile sector in the wake of lower domestic cotton output, and a slowdown in consumer finance, said the monetary policy.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan cracks down on sketchy digital lending

https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/28/pakistan-cracks-down-on-sketchy-digital-lending/


Pakistan’s markets regulator issued new guidelines for digital lending in the country, cracking down on several sketchy practices that it said have become prevalent in the South Asian market.

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan said Wednesday evening that non-banking finance companies that disburse loans through digital channels, including mobile apps, will be required to disclose key fact statements such as the credit amount they are granting to consumers, annual percentage rates, duration of the loan and “all fee and charges.”

The non-banking finance firms will be required to share these key facts with consumers through audio or video and emails and text messages in both English and Urdu languages. “Any fee not included in key fact statement will not be charged to the borrower,” the regulator said (PDF) in a press release.

These firms will also not be able to access borrower’s phone book or contacts lists or pictures on the device “even if the borrower has given consent in this regard,” the regulator said. (You can read the full guidelines here {PDF}.)

“The lender shall also not be allowed to contact the persons in the borrower’s contact list, other than those who have been specifically authorized by the borrower as guarantors and who have also provided their consent to the digital lender at the time of loan approval,” it added.

The move follows the regulator noticing a rise in mis-selling, breach of data privacy and “coercive” recovery practices of licensed digital lending companies” and to safeguard public interest, it said.

Neighboring nation India also introduced strict rules surrounding digital lending in a move that has toppled the local fintech industry.

https://www.secp.gov.pk/document/circular-no-15-of-2022-requirements-for-nbfcs-engaged-in-digital-lending/?ind=1672222021650&filename=Circular-No.15-of-2022..pdf&wpdmdl=46436&refresh=63ac43d13db561672233937
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan’s Agriculture-focused Fintech Digit++ Obtains Approval from State Bank

https://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2022/12/200398-pakistans-agriculture-focused-fintech-digit-obtains-approval-from-state-bank/


The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the nation’s central bank, has reportedly granted approval to the test launch of the country’s very first agriculture-focused Fintech platform, Digitt+ (providing an Electronic Money Institution or EMI permit).

Digitt+ is supported by Akhtar Fuiou Technologies (AFT), the firm revealed this past Friday.

According to the firm, the aim of this agri-Fintech app is to fully digitize the agricultural ecosystem, enable greater financial inclusion for local farmers and unbanked consumers via its tech, partnership, relationship with agri-businesses and FMCGs operating in Pakistan.

As reported by local sources, Digitt+ has teamed up with FuiouPay, an international payment solutions provider, in order to offer a market-based alternative to the traditional banking system.

As explained in the announcement, FuiouPay provides holistic enabling solutions via their 75 intellectual property licenses and proprietary software solutions.

Qasim Akhtar Khan, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Digitt+, noted that the firm will offer financial technology solutions to farmers residing in the country, who will have the option to open bank accounts and also gain access to credit and digital financial services – including easy bill payments, digital commerce, investments as well as fund transfers.

As noted in the update, the approval from the State Bank of Pakistan is a key milestone.

This ongoing initiative has the potential to address persistent food security issues, significantly improve yields and enhance human welfare in Pakistan, directly affecting local farmers and merchants, he stated.

Notably, Pakistan has been a significant agriculture powerhouse for many years. Agriculture employs around 50% of the nation’s workforce and also contributes approximately 25% to the GDP.

While this is considerable, the industry doesn’t have adequate access to financial services from the banking sector.

Ahmed Saleemi, CEO of Digitt+ explained that using tech to create digital financial products focusing on micro services to build a platform that should support the delivery of these solutions for the retail Agri market and corporate sector can be achieved via the provision of business tools.
Riaz Haq said…
Informal Savings in Pakistan


https://www.dawn.com/news/1725956


According to research by Oraan, around 41pc Pakistanis saved via committees (or Rosca), whereas Karandaaz puts that figure at 34pc. Assuming the informal economy accounts for roughly 30pc, as suggested by research from the Pakistan Institute of Developing Economics, it translates into annual committees of Rs4 trillion at base prices, using conservative inputs.

While this back-of-the-envelope calculation is far from scientific, it helps contextualise how big the informal savings market really is. Everyone from a widow looking to save up for her children’s education to young adults trying to save up for their marriage, committees are what they turn to.

This phenomenon is not exclusive to Pakistan. According to a note by Middle East Venture Partners (one of the investors in Bykea), “the global market is largely untapped and ripe for disruption with 2.4 billion people using money circles through traditional channels.”

They recently participated in the Egyptian digital committees’ startup MoneyFellows’ $31m Series B.

Apart from the traditional financial institutions’ general apathy towards the customer, committees appeal to an average Pakistani for several reasons: they are a community-based instrument with some level of flexibility and there is no interest involved.

Most importantly, it helps them manage cash flow better due to habitual change. For women, the product enjoys particular popularity since the former financial services are largely inaccessible.

However, since committees are primarily cash-based with virtually no money trail involved, it poses massive risks, as we saw recently when a girl, Sidra Humaid, who ran a network of committees through social media, defaulted on Rs420m of payments.

----

Even beyond this, committees have flaws by design, only amplified by Pakistan’s macros. For instance, the person receiving the first lump sum amount will always be at an advantage since their instalments in the subsequent months would be worth less due to both inflation and rupee depreciation. The recipient of the last payment would see the amount’s purchasing power eroded substantially by the time they get it.

Moreover, due to the community-based nature of the product, the risk of network defaulting is higher as people of usually similar risk profiles would be pooling in their money.

For example, if employees from an organisation have running office committees, delayed salaries or layoffs within the organisation would lead to a bad equilibrium, creating losses for the rest of the group, often resulting in default.

However, there are ways to address some of those challenges. First of all, to (partially) protect your lump sum from depreciation or devaluation, you can enter a committee with a duration of up to 10 months. Given Pakistan’s macros of late, you’d still lose money in real terms but to be fair, that’d most likely be the case in any other instrument as well, including the risk-free government papers.

In fact, contrary to popular perception, there are certain ways to further alleviate the inflation problem. Digital committees have an option of gamifying the experience by rewarding good payment behaviour through loyalty programs and/or brand partnerships to provide discounts on utilities-based services and products.

Secondly, digital committees help create a trail of money which, coupled with a centralised authority (the platform itself), brings in accountability and recourse in the event of a default. The receipt and/or ledger helps with basic accounting in committees creating transparency for people within the group.

The third benefit of digital committees is the security factor. The participant has to go through a know-your-customer and credit check process to make sure there is no fraudulent behaviour that could negatively impact the group, along with the participant’s ability and willingness to pay to create an overall environment for responsible finance.

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