The World Food Programme (WFP) has provided cash assistance to over one thousand refugees living in Mantapala Refugee Settlement in Zambia through the plugPAY digital payment solution.
The payment platform allows WFP to transfer cash directly to refugees’ bank accounts or mobile wallets of choice while using the country’s interoperable payment gateway, the National Financial Switch.
It is understood that WFP is implementing this initiative in partnership with Citibank Zambia Limited and MTN Zambia.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Zambia hosts over 100,000 refugees, asylum-seekers and others of concern.
UNHCR also noted that cash-based assistance is a mainstay in a sustainable response to the refugee problem in the Zambia with some 4,225 new asylum seekers arriving between 01 January and 31 August 2021.
The Mantapala Refugee Settlement is home to around 18,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
‘The plugPAY system provides choice and fosters financial inclusion, enabling vulnerable people to choose where they receive and withdraw their cash’, WFP Country Representative, Cissy Byenkya, said in a statement.
‘It offers improved efficiency and better security as WFP can send cash directly to people while streamlining the internal processes to shorten WFP’s response time’.
It was gathered that around 17,000 refugees currently receive cash assistance, allowing them to choose the food of their choice at local markets while child-headed households and refugees without SIM cards are on monthly food assistance.
The UN entity noted that the success of the first three batches of payments to the over one thousand refugees has proven the efficiency of the platform as it plans to scale up plugPAY to cover the entire refugee population receiving cash assistance.
World Bank data shows that financial inclusion in Zambia has nearly doubled in the past decade, from 21.3 percent in 2005 to 40.2 percent in 2016.
However, Engagement Global estimated that about 60 percent of adults in Zambia who have access to quality financial products do not use it.
Engagement Global also noted that in remote rural regions, people still use unregulated and unsecured channels to make payments and store savings.
‘Financial inclusion is a key priority for the Zambian government who recognises financial services as a pathway for wealth creation, economic growth and sustainable development’, Citibank Zambia Chief Executive Officer, Lowani Chibesakunda, said.
‘plugPay is well aligned to national priorities, and this innovative partnership will help to realise government efforts to improve financial inclusion’.
WFP also noted it will explore ways to enhance innovative payment solutions embedded in social protection programmes in Zambia and foster financial inclusion at national level while boosting the local market.
Photo source: WFP/Andy Higgins