Number of unbanked Lebanese decreases as digital finance supports daily needs

Digital technology has made receiving money from loved ones abroad quicker and easier than ever before. However, despite the convenience of mobile and online financial services, many adults across the globe relying on international money transfers remain unbanked.

According to the United Nations Financing for Sustainable Development Report 2021, 94% of adults in developed countries have a bank account, but less than two-thirds (63%) have one in developing countries.

In Lebanon, the population with at least one bank account is estimated to be less than half (44.8%) in late 2020. With a financial crisis hitting the country, many Lebanese have been restricted from their savings as banks have imposed capital controls on all bank accounts.

For those unbanked individuals, access to international remittance solutions becomes essential in allowing them to take care of daily needs and pay bills.

While COVID swept across the globe, consumer behaviours shifted to an online-first approach. During this time, Lebanon too looked at alternative payment options.

One such option was digital wallets, a form of electronic money that allows people to conduct financial transactions using a mobile phone. While a popular alternative to bank accounts overseas, mobile money and digital wallets are only just scratching the surface in Lebanon.

“Although the Lebanese have made progress in making finance accessible for all, many people without access to a bank account still struggle to overcome the barriers to get started with international remittances,” said Imane Charioui, Head of North and Central Africa & Middle East at WorldRemit. “Educating Lebanese on the benefits and convenience of sending money through a trusted provider is therefore essential to further growth and adoption of alternative solutions.”

Although over six out of 10 adults in Lebanon own mobile phones, online banking and the use of mobile phones for financial transactions are being adopted at a slow rate.

A lack of awareness of online financial service offerings and a preference for completing transactions in-person often stand as the major barriers to the shift online.

For those who are afraid of diving into a mobile wallet system, and are unable to obtain a bank account, finding ways of accessing funds might be challenging.

Reaching the unbanked

How does an individual abroad send money to their loved ones back home who have no bank account or no mobile money provider?

According to WorldRemit, the answer is cash pickup.

“While online transactions become more popular throughout Lebanon, we want to ensure beneficiaries can still claim remittances with ease wherever they may be – it’s as easy as going to their neighbourhood CashPlus location,” said Charioui.

While mobile wallets and banking continue to grow, those who prefer to use cash will still remain. To support this, WorldRemit continues to maintain its robust network of 140 cash pick-up locations through CashPlus.

As remittances remain a vital lifeline for the Lebanese economy, ensuring customers have access to receive these funds in whichever way they require, remains essential.

For overseas foreign workers sending money home, WorldRemit offers customers a better way to send money with fast international cash transfers and low transfer fees. Signing up for a WorldRemit account is free, and offers several payment options such as bank transfer, credit, debit or prepaid card, Google Pay, and Apple Pay.

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