The United Nations World Food Program (WFP), Citibank Zambia Limited and MTN Zambia have for the first time provided cash assistance to people living in Mantapala refugee camp, which is home to around 18,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), through a digital payment solution, plugPAY. As part of this initiative, the payments platform allows WFP to transfer money directly to refugees’ bank accounts or mobile wallets of their choice while using the country’s interoperable payment gateway, the National Financial Switch.
“The plugPAY system provides choice and fosters financial inclusion, allowing vulnerable people to choose where they receive and withdraw their money,” said WFP country representative Cissy Byenkya. “It offers improved efficiency and security, as WFP can send money directly to people while streamlining internal processes to shorten WFP response time. ”
Over 1,000 refugees have been successfully reached through three payment packages. These early results have proven the effectiveness of WFP’s platform and plans on expanding plugPAY to cover the entire refugee population receiving cash assistance. Currently, around 17,000 refugees are receiving cash assistance, allowing them to choose the food of their choice from local markets. Households headed by children and refugees without a SIM card will continue to receive monthly food assistance.
“Financial inclusion is a key priority for the Zambian government which recognizes financial services as a pathway for wealth creation, economic growth and sustainable development,” said Lowani Chibesakunda, CEO of Citibank Zambia. “plugPay is well aligned with national priorities, and this innovative partnership will help deliver on the government’s efforts to improve financial inclusion.”
Building on lessons learned from this public-private partnership, WFP will explore ways to improve innovative payment solutions integrated into social protection programs in Zambia and foster financial inclusion at the national level while stimulating the local market.
(With contributions from APO)