Biometrics for the financial “last mile”

Kenya: Biometric technology eases banking in rural areas (KBC) — Kenyans in rural areas can now open and get access to their bank accounts with ease following the roll out of a biometric technology…

Somalis panic as cash flow dries up after US remittance lifeline cut

Somalia’s remittance crisis has been intensifying for years. Britain’s Barclays Bank closed its accounts with Dahabshiil, the largest Somali money transfer company, in 2014.

In Australia, Westpac, the only bank partnering with Somali remittance companies, is due to close their accounts at the end of March, the report said.

“We are just lurching from crisis to crisis”, said Ed Pomfret, Oxfam’s Somalia campaign manager. “These governments need to take action.”

Britain has been working with the World Bank on a “Safer Corridor” initiative to tighten the scrutiny of Somali money transfers through measures such as biometric identity cards for recipients in Somalia.

The “last mile” problem is usually reserved for describing the challenges of connecting retail customers with physical infrastructures such as plumbing, electricity or wired communications.

It’s also a real challenge in connecting recipients of aid and remittances to the global financial system. In the Somali case above, the global financial system appears to end at Somali money transfer companies. The Kenya efforts (linked above) and others, such as India’s UID project, are two examples of how people are using biometrics to extend the benefits of the global financial system to people who desperately need them.

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