Yangon, Myanmar – 28 October 2020 – Yoma Bank and LIFT successfully completed an Individual Development Accounts (IDA) financial inclusion programme at the end of September 2020, impacting more than 18,800 individual beneficiaries. The programme specifically focused on improving the living standards of the rural population by providing them with access to formal financial services and financial and digital literacy training. Through the programme, Yoma Bank opened more than 18,800 bank accounts for beneficiaries from rural areas and disbursed over USD2.3 million in savings into these accounts.
In December 2015, LIFT and Yoma Bank committed to an ambitious partnership, working together to increase agricultural productivity and improve rural livelihoods in Myanmar. One of the key objectives of the programme was to help people access financial services. Due to prevalent financial vulnerability in rural populations, limited access to financial services, and a lack of financial literacy; the formal access to financial services is generally low among rural households in Myanmar.
The IDA programme is the final component of the Agribusiness Finance Programme (AFP). The AFP has had a significant impact on rural Myanmar, benefitting an estimated 700,000 families either directly or indirectly under the Hire Purchase and Un(der)secured Lending programmes. The IDA programme on the other hand worked towards three main objectives:
- Increase the rural population’s familiarity with formal financial institutions
- Improve the knowledge and understanding of formal financial services through providing access to a formal bank account
- Contribute to developing good financial behaviour among the rural population through financial and digital literacy
The programme extended to 350 different villages across Myanmar, with a focus on the central Dry Zone. This was the first formal account of most of the beneficiaries, of which 75 per cent were women.
Joanna Wisniecka, Head of Transaction Banking at Yoma Bank and the main responsible for overseeing the partnership with LIFT, said, “Access to formal financial services remains a challenge for many in Myanmar. At Yoma Bank, we understand that improving financial inclusion for unbanked and underbanked populations is pivotal to creating financial security and economic opportunities for rural households. This programme directly contributed to increasing the rural population’s access to formal digital financial services that are accessible and convenient.”
She continued, “Especially during the uncertain times of the COVID-19 crisis, many rural families struggle to cover household expenses and emergency spending. They often have to turn to informal sources of funding, which are both unstable and can be very expensive. Working with a strong partner like LIFT, we are proud to be able to contribute to making a positive impact on Myanmar’s rural communities, especially in this time of need.”
Katy Webley, LIFT Fund Director, said, “Working with Yoma Bank has been an effective way for LIFT to extend financial inclusion to those living in rural communities, many of whom are currently excluded from formal financial services. The impact of our donors’ resources and their expertise and outreach, combined with Yoma Bank’s financial services products and commitment to this partnership, have been substantial. Through this partnership, we see a welcomed increase in women’s financial literacy, their saving behaviours, and the use of financial services.”
Yoma Bank and LIFT to launch new Financial Inclusion Programme
Given the success of the partnership between Yoma Bank and LIFT, we are committed to launching a new financial inclusion programme. The Rural Women’s Digital Finance Programme will build on the IDA programme, with a focus on rural women and expanded financial literacy efforts. The programme has high ambitions as it will work to reach 45,000 women over the next two years, giving them access to digital financial services on the mobile phone, including savings and credit. Training on financial and digital literacy will help ensure that Yoma Bank provides access to these services in a responsible manner. We look forward to making the Rural Women’s Digital Finance Programme a success.