09/30/2016, 14.09
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Mobile phones as mobile banking accounts for the needs of Bangladeshis

by Sumon Corraya

Between 2014 and 2015, money transfers grew by 53 per cent. Mobile phones have become the easiest way to send money to distant families. This type of transactions began five years ago. Today more than 30 million people (out of more than 150 million) have a mobile account.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Money transfers in Bangladesh via mobile phone jumped by 53 per cent last year, becoming a major tool for people to help families back home.

One customer is Hasina Akter, who works in a clothing factory in Tongi, Gazipur, a few kilometres from Dhaka. Each month, she sends money to her family in Rajshahi. "I can’t go home every month to bring the money. Now it's much easier,” she told AsiaNews.

Over the past two years, mobile banking has grown by leaps and bounds. In actual terms, transactions increased from 1.031 billion Bangladeshi taka (US$ 13.1 billion) in 2014 to 1.577 billion taka (US$ 20.1 billion) in 2015.

According to the Bangladesh Bank (BB), the country’s central bank, the number of mobile accounts is expected to grow rapidly.

The breakthrough came five years ago, when some banking institutions like pioneering Dutch Bangla Bank, BKash (which relies on money transfer giant Western Union), and MKash (offered by Islamic Bank Bangladesh Limited) began offering mobile banking services in the country.

The success is due to the fact that money transfers can be performed directly from a mobile phone without having to go to a bank. In a country where70 per cent of the population lives in rural areas, where access to formal financial services is difficult, this is especially advantageous.

Opening a mobile account takes little time. All a customer needs is a cell phone, a SIM card and registration with national ID card and pictures.

The cell phone number is used as mobile account and opening an account is free.

Unlike a traditional bank account, mobile banking does not involve processing fees. This is one of the reasons that led to its widespread acceptance, even among the less well-off.

“In the last couple of years, we have observed that people at the bottom of the pyramid are also massively taking part in economic activities and that volume is increasing significantly every day,” said Bangladesh Bank Executive Director Subhankar Saha. “This contribution directly impacted the transactions in mobile banking”.

Noting that “There are about 30.19 million mobile banking accounts,” he expects “this figure will increase in the coming days;” hence “the total volume of transactions will also rise.”

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