LUSAKA – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), Citibank Zambia Limited and MTN Zambia have for the first time, provided cash assistance to people living in Mantapala Refugee Settlement, home to around 18,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), through a digital payment solution, plugPAY. Under the initiative, the payment platform allows WFP to transfer cash directly to refugees’ bank accounts or mobile wallets of choice while using the country’s interoperable payment gateway, the National Financial Switch.
“The plugPAY system provides choice and fosters financial inclusion, enabling vulnerable people to choose where they receive and withdraw their cash,” said WFP Country Representative, Cissy Byenkya. “It offers improved efficiency and better security as WFP can send cash directly to people while streamlining the internal processes to shorten WFP’s response time.”
Over 1,000 refugees were successfully reached through three batches of payments. These initial results have proven the efficiency of the platform and WFP plans on scaling up plugPAY to cover the entire refugee population receiving cash assistance. Currently, around 17,000 refugees receive cash assistance, allowing them to choose the food of their choice at local markets. Child-headed households and refugees without SIM cards will remain on monthly food assistance.
“Financial inclusion is a key priority for the Zambian Government who recognises financial services as a pathway for wealth creation, economic growth and sustainable development,” said Citibank Zambia Chief Executive Officer, Lowani Chibesakunda. “plugPay is well aligned to national priorities, and this innovative partnership will help to realize government efforts to improve financial inclusion.”
Building on lessons learned from this public-private partnership, WFP will explore ways to enhance innovative payment solutions embedded in social protection programmes in Zambia and foster financial inclusion at national level while boosting the local market.