New project to ease access to digital financial services
By Amina Nazarli
A new advisory project is launched in Azerbaijan to boost financial inclusion by improving access to digital financial services for individuals and smaller businesses, helping them grow and create jobs.
The Electronic & Digital Financial Services Project will be implemented by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and funded by Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).
Over the next three years, it will help introduce modern e-banking services in the country, improving access to financial services for customers who find it difficult to access branch-based services, according to IFC.
Only 29 percent of Azerbaijan’s adult population has an account at a financial institution, compared to an average of more than 50 percent in Europe and Central Asia, according to the World Bank’s Financial Inclusion Data Global Findex.
The project will work with the country’s government agencies, financial institutions, processing centers, mobile network operators and others to help customers use their mobile phones and online banking for transactions, including bill payments and money transfers.
Alim Guliyev, First Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan said that improving access to payment services is a key to improving access to universal financial services.
“This project will help introduce digital solutions to simplify many bank-related processes and help individuals and business owners, especially in remote areas, gain access to financial services,” he said.
Jan van Bilsen, IFC Regional Manager for the South Caucasus, in
turn, said that high fees and the cost and time necessary to travel
to the nearest bank branch often hamper access to financial
services for both individuals and businesses, particularly in
remote areas in Azerbaijan.
“Our aim is to help introduce innovative models that can deliver financial services at lower prices for Azerbaijan’s population,” he said.
Some 32 banks are currently implementing their activities in the country. The total capital of Azerbaijan’s banking sector for the first 4 months of 2017 amounted to almost 2.75 billion manats [$1.6 billion] .
Azerbaijan became a member of IFC in 1995. As of July 31, 2017, IFC had invested around $473 million in the country, of which $73 million was mobilized from other lenders, financing 56 long-term projects across a range of sectors, including the financial services, infrastructure, and manufacturing sectors.
In addition, IFC has supported around $80 million in trade through its trade finance program, and provided $250 million for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. IFC has also implemented a range of advisory projects aimed at encouraging private sector growth.
Amina Nazarli is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @amina_nazarli
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