By Uloma Ogba, Julie Kamau and Dr. Saskia Vossenberg

In this working paper, we explore why and how migrant-centric and gender-smart approaches may be the key to designing digital remittances that migrants want and need. A migrant-centric and gender-smart approach to the design of digital remittances is one that places the migrant customer at the heart of the remittance business, recognizing and accounting for the unique and gendered needs of migrants throughout the design process.

Based on UNCDF’s knowledge and experience working in digital remittances, we propose five principles to guide the design and implementation of migrant-centric and gender-smart digital remittances:

We present the case study of Ping Money, a remittance company with whom UNCDF has partnered to accelerate the adoption of digital remittances in the Gambia. By committing and adapting its business strategy and design practices to be more migrant-centric and gender-smart, Ping Money is already seeing the benefits – increased customer growth, brand recognition and customer satisfaction. 80 percent of Ping Money’s recent customer growth has been driven by word-of-mouth recommendations from existing customers, and transfer volumes have grown by threefold in 2021. In addition, the company’s strategic partnerships have helped to bring down remittance costs by 4 percent.

If done right, adopting a migrant-centric and gender-smart approach in the design of digital remittances could be a win-win for both remittance service providers (RSPs) and migrants – supporting RSPs achieve their business goals and empowering migrants to take greater control over their financial lives. This matters because, to date, the promise of digital remittances to offer migrants a cheaper, faster and safer alternative to send money to their home countries has not been fully realized. This is partly because RSPs largely fail to recognize migrants as a unique customer segment whose access to and usage of digital financial services (DFS) is driven by their characteristics, needs, wants and challenges, which in turn are shaped by their migrant journeys. Further, half of the 200 million migrants globally are women who, because of their gender, can experience additional constraints in accessing and using digital remittances including how much, to whom and for what they remit.

To support RSPs in moving away from the current ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach in designing digital remittances, UNCDF is proposing this novel, migrant-centric and gender-smart approach. While the concepts of ‘customer centricity’ and ‘gender smartness’ are not new and have been applied to other areas of inclusive finance, very little has been written on an approach that combines both concepts and applies them in the context of remittances and migrant product design. We look forward to expanding and refining the proposed approach as we amass evidence from our work and learn from the experiences of other stakeholders committed to promoting the rights of migrants everywhere.

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