How digital finance could boost growth in emerging economies

A technology can make wonders happen if implementation is done in the right direction at the right time. When a technology is introduced in a developed country, the effect is noticed moderately as it adds to a step towards progress of the already developed economy. But when the same technology is introduced in an emerging economy, the development seems drastic and conspicuous. Digital finance is one of those developments which has and can bring sea change in emerging economies.

Digital finance i.e. financial services delivered via mobile phones, internet or plastic cards has reached huge mass and still has a great scope to have a large economic impact on an almost virgin population. It could give 1.6 billion individuals access to a financial account for the first time. It will also open a whole universe of opportunity to a section of the society (almost 880 million) who had been saving and spending with utmost care since centuries attributed to their role in the family: the women of the family. Research also proves that when women have financial accounts, they tend to spend more than men on food, education, and health care, increasing the welfare and productivity of their family.

According to an article by "The World Bank", nearly 50% of people in the developing world own mobile phone. Mobile banking is one of the effective ways to reach a large section of population. The best feature of mobile banking is that mobile networks reach remote areas at low cost. It is thus making possible to provide low-cost and convenient financial services to all those who need them.

Mobile phones have changed the process of banking and doing transactions by cashing in on existing communications infrastructure such as departmental stores, travel agents, post offices, and banks. To capitalize on the usage of mobile phone amongst the people at the bottom of the economic pyramid, mobile money services such as Mobi Sacco, Mobi Microfin, Mobi Wallet, has made it extremely easy and cheap for people to use financial services.

We need to acknowledge the energy and effort savings if digital finance becomes popular. Along with availability of numerous financial options, it would also ensure convenience and cost reduction to every individual. The time in which one has to take trips to the bank and stand in line for hours can be used for working and thus contribute towards the economy of the country.

Efficient management of income and expenses direct the developing population to take care of their enterprises like farms, small business. With further progress, they understand importance of savings, insurance and become resilient from economic shocks resulting from natural or man-made disasters. In Malawi, farmers whose income from crop sales was deposited directly into accounts spent 13% more on inputs for their future crops and achieved a 21% average increase in yields from the following year's harvest in comparison to farmers who received payment in cash.

Digital finance is and will be boon for businesses; it brings credibility and thus more business. Having an electronic record of transactions, it helps them in keeping a track of cash flow and thus organize their operations. A number of Smartphone apps such as Mobi Wallet, Mobi Payare in the market having the capacity to enable businesses to process digital payments, money remittances which would help the business to increase their productivity and profitability.

It is not a hidden fact that emerging economies has hard time fighting corruption at different levels due to less transparency leading to huge loss of economy. Digital payments and transparency go hand in hand. With digital finance, Governments in emerging economies could collectively save at least $110 billion annually by reducing leakage in public expenditure and tax revenue. Of this, about $70 billion would come from ensuring that government spending reaches its target. The public investment could be channelized into critical areas such as education, infrastructure, and health care. One of the major stakeholders of digital payments, Financial service providers, can facilitate almost $4.2 trillion in new deposits could flow into the financial system. It can be used in providing loans or capital for investment and required developments.

Evidently, emerging economies can take a huge leap with the help of digital payments. Most of the developing countries are working hard and being called as emerging economies as an outcome of the commendable efforts. At grassroots level, they have to fight with misappropriation, lack of awareness towards saving and insurance making the population vulnerable. Digital payments can bring transparency, progressive developments and resiliency in the long run.

WPITS

Entities which can change the complete picture of digital finance are: telecoms companies, payment providers, financial technology start-ups, micro finance institutions (MFIs), retailers, and even handset manufacturers. To reiterate, if the entities and other major stakeholders including the users implement the technology in the right direction at the right time, wonders will happen.