Humanitarian mobile money disbursements are often hampered by liquidity and performance constraints throughout the cash delivery ecosystem – from Retail Agents to mobile money service providers. This report documents and provides an analysis of the challenges encountered in the process of delivering humanitarian bulk payments and presents key recommendations for humanitarian organizations, mobile money service providers, and donors alike to overcome these constraints. This research draws from programmatic experiences in Pakistan as well as detailed engagement with the major mobile money providers, Franchises, Retail Agents and humanitarian practitioners throughout in the Pakistan market. The recommendations draw from the key findings and the discussion at a stakeholder workshop that the IRC convened in Islamabad, Pakistan, which brought together mobile money service providers and humanitarian actors.
Several key themes and findings emerged during the semi-structured interviews. Overall, mobile money service providers have experience working with humanitarian agencies and value this business relationship, though working with humanitarian agencies presents its own set of unique challenges. For example, humanitarian bulk payments result in a significant increase in the transaction volume and size for Retail Agents over a short period of time in hard to access areas. Meeting these needs requires additional and advance planning to ensure liquidity. This planning can be complicated by: (i) gaps in information about the number and geographic coverage of Retail Agents, as Retail Agents are not unique to a given service provider and/or may no longer be actively participating in cash-out activities; and (ii) a lack of understanding about the prevailing models used by mobile money services providers, the different actors involved at the various stages, their roles and responsibilities, and where to direct the relevant communication about specific issues encountered.
From the perspective of the Retail Agent, their ability to manage liquidity is also often hindered by a lack of training, financial support, and advance notice of bulk payments from those responsible. Additionally, Retail Agents may resist participating in bulk payments as there is no increased benefit or fee that may offset the increased risk associated with the larger amounts of cash needed for such payments. For humanitarian agencies, understanding the landscape and different models involved in mobile money payments can help them streamline communications with essential players in the process and can inform how they structure the payment of fees to service providers.
Recommendations for humanitarian organizations and mobile money service providers to address cash-out constraints in bulk mobile money payments:
- Mobile money service providers, either directly or through Super Agents, should ensure Retail Agents are supported with the necessary training and tools/products to manage liquidity
- Humanitarian agencies should foster relationships directly with other actors involved in the mobile money cash-out process and proactively communicate with them when planning for bulk distributions
- Mobile money service providers should provide advance notification of upcoming bulk payments to the Super Agent with the requirement that the Super Agent notify the Franchises and Retail Agents a predefined period of time in advance of the actual disbursement
- Humanitarian agencies should strengthen efforts to educate the beneficiary population on financial literacy, financial products and expectations for interacting with financial service providers
- Humanitarian agencies should encourage mobile money service providers to alter commission structures and utilize incentives in ways that promote participation in bulk payments by Retail Agents and proactive liquidity management support by Franchises
- Humanitarian agencies should leverage their service agreements with mobile money providers to ensure adequate delivery of cash-out services
- Humanitarian organizations should proactively seek opportunities to build their capacity on digital payment solutions and their understanding of the different mobile money banking model options and the opportunities each offers