At one time, financial institutions thrived in corporate hubs, choosing to open new locations in areas where economies were strong and consumers spent freely. As the Internet has made it easier for startups to form in some of the world’s most remote locations, financial institutions have emerged, as well. Instead of relying on the same banks used in other areas of the world, developing nations have found that new financial institutions have emerged to serve those populations, further strengthening their local infrastructures. Here are a few financial institutions strengthening developing nations through lending and other services.
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is the U.S. government’s development finance institution, providing financing to private sector businesses in developing countries. OPIC’s per-project loan size is $350,000, with additional funding available through co-lenders if needed. The funds are raised through private capital, often donated by American businesses. To qualify for OPIC loans, overseas businesses must demonstrate a meaningful connection to the U.S. private sector. Active OPIC projects include insurers, sustainability projects, and SME support organizations.
Headquartered in Latvia, ABLV Bank services businesses and consumers in Latvia, as well as other areas within the Commonwealth of Independent States. In addition to banking services, ABLV Bank also offers financial planning and investment services to its members. The agents at ABLV work one on one with each client to help create the best suite of solutions, specializing in non-standard situations. Among the bank’s many clients are large commercial and state banks, as well as consulting and insurance companies that operate within its service areas.
Mobile payments are still new in developed areas, but the technology is taking off in areas where the economy is still developing. African mobile money transfer service M-Pesa™ is one such service. Owned by Vodafone, it has now become widespread in usage, with customers in Africa, India, Afghanistan, and Eastern Europe. Using their mobile devices, consumers and business owners can use M-Pesa™ to deposit and withdraw funds, as well as transfer money and pay for products and services. This service has allowed areas to skip the process of building brick-and-mortar financial institutions in developing areas and equip residents with the mobile banking tools that consumers in developed nations are only beginning to embrace.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the World Bank specializes in providing financial assistance to developing countries through the five organizations it owns. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development lends money to middle-income and credit-worthy low-income governments and the International Development Association provides interest-free loans to low-income governments. In addition to this support, partner organizations to the bank often ask the World Bank to assist with initiatives that address specific needs in developing nations.
Opportunity International’s goal is to end world poverty by creating 20 million jobs by the year 2020. They do this by supporting local microfinance organizations that give residents the financing they need to start businesses and invest their earnings. They also provide training to equip populations with the skills they need to thrive as global service providers. In addition to loans and other means of financial support, Opportunity International makes sure developing nations have access to the ATMs, point-of-sale devices, and mobile banking options they need to process sales and manage their personal finances.
One major obstacle in lending to developing countries is credit score. Branch.co focuses on the use of technology to reduce these challenges, sourcing the data on a person’s phone to set a financial score. Applicants share data from their phone, which is then encrypted by Branch.co’s software to maintain security. Most of the applicants use the financing they receive to start businesses, which further strengthens local economies. There are no fees for late payments, but the faster a person repays the loan, the more the fees are reduced. All transactions are conducted through an Android app, allowing the service to reach applicants in areas where there are no banks.
As access to financial services continues to expand across the globe, those who have traditionally lived below poverty level will now be able to build an income. With so many companies investing in improving the global economy, consumers everywhere will benefit from access to professional products and services from a worldwide talent pool.