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UPU talks digital financial inclusion at WSIS

23.03.2018 - UPU experts participating in the annual World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum focused on sharing the organization’s partners-led approach on the digitization of postal financial services to foster financial inclusion.

UPU Financial Inclusion Technical Assistance Facility expert Youssouf Sy presented the UPU’s plans for fostering digital financial inclusion at the WSIS workshop on e-business (Photo: ITU).
Two billion people around the globe still have no access to financial services. For these individuals, as well as for micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs), lack of access means no security for their savings, and reduced ability to take part in the economy, e-commerce and the world’s growing digitalization. The result: crippling financial exclusion for small businesses and millions of people, many of them women, especially in rural areas.
Acknowledging this challenge’s severity, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development included significant targets on financial inclusion. The Universal Postal Union is responding through its Financial Inclusion Technical Assistance Facility (FITAF), which is dedicated to supporting 20 postal operators to foster financial inclusion through digitization of their financial services by 2020.
A joint event organized by the UPU, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and International Trade Centre (ITC), held on 22 March at the WSIS Forum in Geneva, addressed those challenges and opportunities. Titled, “E-business and financial inclusion as a catalyst for the formalization and growth of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in developing countries”, the session considered the importance of access to digital financial services in order to foster both financial inclusion and the development of MSMEs.
Introducing the panel, Paul Donohoe, who leads UPU’s Digital Economy, E-Commerce and Trade Programme, quoted a report stating that 2 billion people and 200 million businesses lack access to savings and credit. Youssouf Sy, who spearheads UPU’s work on FITAF, described the postal network as a key actor in financial inclusion. He added, “Financial inclusion provides access to finances and enables individuals and businesses to build resilience and growth.”
In remarks via video teleconference, Jorge Ortega, Senior Director, Global Financial Inclusion at VISA Inc., stressed the importance of focusing on small merchant inclusion. Ortega underlined the need to change approaches, think differently and try new ideas.
“Posts won’t just deliver mail, they’ll also deliver digital payment services to neighbouring merchants, supporting business growth while bringing new revenue opportunities to post offices with technology and services that keep them vital in the digital age,” he explained. 
Other speakers included, Anir Chowdhury, a Project Advisor at a21, Bisi Adegbuyi, NIPOST Postmaster General in Nigeria, Mohamed Es Fih, the eSolutions for Business Advisor at the International Trade Centre and Scarlett Fondeur Gill at ICT Policy Section, UNCTAD. 
Panelists shared the view that important national infrastructures such as the postal network, which offers universal reach to the last mile, can increase financial inclusion in unbanked and underserved communities. This inclusion can then enable the formalization and growth of MSMEs.
The various cases presented by speakers and interventions made by participants demonstrated that suitable digital financial solutions could be a superior means of meeting needs of individuals and small businesses, compared to the informal financial tools they use today.
eCommerce, Financial services