Money transfers without borders
Title: Improving access to remittances and other financial services through digital solutions (Digi#ances)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) as part of the special initiative ‘Tackling the root causes of displacement, reintegrating refugees’
Lead executing agency: Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ)
Overall term: 2015 to 2019
For decades, Jordan has been a host country for refugees from crises and conflicts in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon and most recently from Syria. In situations of need, many people are forced to rely on financial support from family members and friends. However, their possibilities for receiving money conveniently and at low cost or keeping it safe are severely limited.
At present, it is extremely difficult for Syrian refugees to open a bank account in Jordan. At the same time, 58 per cent of Jordanian adults do not have a bank account. For this reason, most payments from abroad as well as within Jordan are made in cash. Digital financial services can help minimise the high risks and costs involved when money is transferred through operators or via informal channels. Cross-border remittances by migrants living abroad have been a major source of income for the Jordanian economy for a long time: valued at 5.1 billion US dollars, these remittances accounted for approximately 13 per cent of Jordan’s GDP in 2016.
Conditions for using digital services for cross-border remittances are created for refugees and Jordanian households.
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für international Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is collaborating with the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) to develop solutions that facilitate access to financial services for refugees and low-income Jordanians. Together they implement the project “Improving access to remittances and other financial services through digital solutions (Digi#ances)”. With this project they help the target group to further their own economic and social development.
In cooperation with the project, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, CGAP, conducted an extensive study to analyse the situation and possibilities for digital money transfer in Jordan. This has supported the application of information-based implementation strategies. A consortium consisting of AFC, ADG and Altai Consulting is assisting the project in the digital financial literacy sector.
The project employs several approaches:
- A needs-based digital remittance service at national level provides the basis for cross-border systems. The project is therefore working with the private sector to develop digital and/or mobile financial services and test them in pilot projects.
- Information campaigns and training courses tailored to the target groups promote the responsible use of digital financial services. In this way, Syrian refugees, low-income Jordanians and women in particular learn how to use digital financial services.
- In order to enable the services for digital cross-border remittances, the current national regulatory framework must be enhanced accordingly. The project advises the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) on developing regulatory and supervisory mechanisms that comply with international standards on consumer protection, anti-money laundering and anti-terror financing.
The project is part of the special initiative ‘Tackling the Root Causes of Displacement, Reintegrating Refugees’. Since 2014, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has earmarked funds for this initiative to provide short-term support to refugees and host communities, and it seeks to eliminate structural causes of displacement, such as poverty, inequality and lack of food security. The funding focuses on projects in developing countries that are particularly affected by refugee crises.
To date, the project enabled 60,000 Jordanians and refugees to use digital financial services, also known as mobile wallets, through a development partnership with a Jordanian FinTech company (March 2018).
Mobile wallets are mobile applications used to perform financial transactions, such as saving and transferring money. Agents play a significant role in the value chain, as customers can open accounts, credit their wallets with cash and withdraw money. The difference to a bank account is that the opening processes are significantly easier and less documentation is required. On the other side, transaction limits are lower than those of banks but still within the range of everyday transactions. mobile wallets don’t require a minimum balance and fees are lower too.
To enhance the regulatory framework of local and cross-border digital financial services the project supported the elaboration of regulations on consumer protection, which have been issued in March 2017.
To discuss relevant policy and exchange experiences and knowledge, the project supported the creation and the running of a public-private policy dialogue. The “DFS Council” is headed by the CBJ and is meeting quarterly with stakeholders ranging from regulators to industry to civil society. To date, the dialogue contributed to policy development in the fields of consumer protection and anti-money laundering as well as countering the financing of terrorism.
To advance the awareness and literacy about digital financial services, the project developed a roadmap that is jointly implemented by 13 organizations from the private sector, development and humanitarian organizations and government.