Gates Foundation Awards $1.7 Million for Mobile Banking Project in Africa, Middle East

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a $1.7 million grant to Paris-based PlaNet Finance to support a project to provide the poor with access to banking services via their mobile phones.

According to PlaNet Finance, three billion people have a mobile phone while only one billion have a bank account. With mobile banking, the most rural and remote populations can access financial services, providing poor people opportunities to save money, pay bills, and apply for microloans.

Using PlaNet Finance's existing mobile phone platform, the Mobile Banking Project will allow poor people to use their mobile phones to process financial transactions while reducing the cost of these transactions for microfinance institutions. The grant will enable PlaNet Finance and Orange — a division of France Telecom — to implement and evaluate its mobile banking platform for microfinance institutions in Senegal and expand the program to Jordan, Egypt, and Ivory Coast.

"Mobile banking is quickly growing in the microfinance sector," said PlaNet Finance president Jacques Attali. "By leveraging technologies that are already in the hands of the poor, we can deliver a more immediate and sustainable banking solution. We look forward to working with Orange to continue expanding our efforts."