IOM-Georgia and MFE Conference on Mobile Finance


September 29, 2009: International Organization for Migration (IOM) Georgia in cooperation with MFE hosted a conference with the regulators and industry representatives. A feasibility of introducing the mobile finance services in Georgia was discussed during the one-day conference. The following findings and recommendations were reached:

 

Findings:

  • The studies conducted by IOM within the IFAD-funded project demonstrated a potential for the development of alternative channels for sending remittances. It became clear that the cost – compared to other regions of the world, is not the key concern, it is rather the access, convenience and control of funds which can be significantly improved by introducing transparent, inexpensive, real-time and secure mobile finance transactions.

  • The existing electronic money transfer practices result in single encashment of funds, which very much limits the degree of financial inclusion, whereas mobile technology will allow customers with electronic payment infrastructure to store and better manage their funds as well as leverage remittances with the high-value financial services. 
     
  • Mobile finance offers tremendous opportunities to facilitate migrant remittances as well as generally increase financial inclusion of those who are left beyond the reach of financial services; the sector will have positive impact on economic growth, efficiency and generation of social impact;
     
  • Mobile remittances, subject to business model and methodology, can be very secure and transparent systems in terms of record keeping and reporting the transaction data.
     
     
  • Regulatory environment for mobile finance services seems pretty open for businesses and there are all pre-conditions for business models focusing on low income population and low-value transactions.

 

Recommendations:

  • Taking into account the remarkably stable performance of remittances compared to other sectors of economy (just 20% decline from last year, versus 80% decline in FDI), to promote policies which will encourage sending money home as well as saving and investing to create pre-conditions for voluntary repatriation of economic migrants;

  • Provided there is a clarity established on taxation aspects of remittances, it is important to raise the awareness among migrants in order to build trust towards the financial system and fiscal authorities, so the migrants are encouraged to use formal channels for sending remittances
     
  • Importance of leveling the playing field for microfinance institutions, acknowledging their social function, reducing extra tax burden and in the future – subject to different level of regulation - allowing collection of saving which allows to extend these services to the unbanked population; 
     
  • Coordination among regulators and on-going dialogue with policy makers to create an enabling environment for business models which will promote financial inclusion, one of those being mobile finance services; 
     
  • Dialogue between mobile finance operators and regulators are of paramount importance as there will certainly be new issues emerging in regulation, driven by considerations of consumer protection and stability of the financial system.


This report which includes discussions, findings and suggestions elaborated during the conference, is available upon request from MFE.