The UN Secretary General’s Special Advocate (UNSGSA) for Inclusive Finance for Development, Her Majesty Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, was in Islamabad from 25-26 November for a country visit at the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan. The main objective of the visit was to support the government, private sector and other decision-makers to embrace the role of enhanced innovation, public goods, women’s financial inclusion, and customer-centric approach to promote financial inclusion in the country.

CEO Aamir Ibrahim was invited to attend a fintech roundtable at the United Nations’ Office. During the meeting, Pakistan’s overall political and economic context was discussed alongside the specific challenged and opportunities curtailing fintechs from achieving financial inclusion. About 99 million Pakistanis still have no access to financial services, such as bank or savings accounts, insurance, loans, pensions or digital payment methods. Furthermore, only about 21% of Pakistani adults own a bank account.

Aamir Ibrahim highlighted what Jazz is doing through JazzCash to promote financial inclusion – particularly for marginalized communities. Women in Pakistan have far less access to financial services as compared to men with reports by the World Bank stating that 17% of bank accounts in Pakistan are owned by women. As part of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy of the State Bank, the target is to have 25% of females with a transacting bank account.

Currently, 24% of users using JazzCash accounts are female. Yet Mobile Wallets have their own challenges. Early-stage maturity wallet platforms typically see customers use the wallet only to buy airtime when needed. The root causes of this are several, including financial illiteracy, hence reduced trust in wallet platforms; lack of familiarity with the concept of keeping money in financial institutions; privacy concerns, but wallet operators face serious hurdles in getting the wallets loaded initially. With support from the government, progress can be made on providing access to financial services with the aim of improving the financial lives of people in Pakistan.

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