Singapore regulator and UN team up for ASEAN financial inclusion
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) have teamed up to improve access to digital financial services in the ASEAN region.
The partnership is under the ongoing UNCDF’s Shift (Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations) programme for development in this part of the world.
Sopnendu Mohanty, chief fintech officer, MAS, says financial services have a “role to play in the economic empowerment of women and the marginalised”.
MAS and UNCDF Shift will look to work on digitisation of low-tier financial institutions – such as financial co-operatives, micro finance institutions and banks – “particularly in extending last-mile distribution to the base of the pyramid in these markets”. They want to help the poor in plain English.
As the first initiative, MAS is supporting UNCDF Shift’s latest “challenge fund window”. The fund provides co-funding grants for business models that foster regulated international remittances to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) for women, and increase adoption and usage of remittance-linked financial products and services in CLMV.
According to MAS, remittances for these four countries contributed $17.2 billion and their growing influx is playing a “significant role” in economic development in the Mekong region, and can act as a catalyst for the development of the local digital financial services ecosystem by providing greater access to basic financial services.
The fund aims to support projects for which social returns are assured, but financial returns may not yet have been proven.
The challenge fund window is open to applicants until 9 June 2017; and the grant awards will be finalised by October 2017.
MAS will host a Shift challenge fund workshop in Singapore. Selected applicants’ projects will be showcased at the Singapore Fintech Festival, to be held on 13-17 November 2017.