PlaNet Finance to enhance the poor’s access to financial services with Orange

PlaNet Finance has received a $1.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support a Mobile Banking Project based in Senegal. The Mobile Banking Project, which is co-developed with Orange, will help PlaNet Finance use its existing mobile phone platform and infrastructure to provide microfinance clients with enhanced access to banking services.

Today, one billion people have a bank account, but three billion have a mobile phone. Mobile banking has the potential to bring financial services to the most rural and remote populations, providing poor people with limited access to these services the opportunity to save money, pay bills and apply for microloans.

“With this Project, we will help bank the unbanked,” said Enzo Cicchirillo, IT expert for PlaNet Finance.

By enabling poor people to use their mobile phones to process financial transactions, the Mobile Banking Project will reduce the cost of these transactions for microfinance institutions. This Project will facilitate cost effective access to services and products of microfinance for thousands of micro-entrepreneurs living in remote areas who cannot afford the time or the money to travel to the nearest bank or microfinance institution.

The foundation’s grant will support PlaNet Finance’s efforts to ensure microfinance is included in the early development stage of mobile telephony as a tool for banking services. It will enable PlaNet Finance and its partner Orange to implement and evaluate its mobile banking platform and solutions for microfinance institutions in Senegal, and then expand this program to three other countries: Jordan, Egypt and Ivory Coast.

“The development of solutions that make life easier for everybody remains a key priority for Orange,” said Didier Lombard, chairman and chief executive officer at France Telecom. “I am very proud that our work with PlaNet Finance, which aims to facilitate access to banking services for disadvantaged populations, is being supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,”

Jacques Attali, president of PlaNet Finance, commented: “Mobile banking is quickly growing in the microfinance sector. By leveraging technologies that are already in the hands of the poor, we can deliver a more immediate and sustainable banking solution. We look forward to working with Orange to continue expanding our efforts.”