Afghanistan Joins Better Than Cash Alliance to Address Poverty and Grow Economy by Shifting to Electronic Payments

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, January 22, 2013
USAID Press Office

NEW YORK, NY: Today, the Government of Afghanistan announced that it has joined the Better Than Cash Alliance, an initiative founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi, Ford Foundation, Omidyar Network, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), U.N. Capital Development Fund and Visa Inc., by committing to transition significant volumes of cash payments to electronic payments.

There are many needs and opportunities to transition from cash to electronic payments in Afghanistan. Currently there are nearly 1 million Afghan government employees unable to receive their salaries electronically. And yet, while fewer than five percent of Afghans have bank accounts, nearly 60 percent of all Afghans have mobile phones and more than 83 percent of the population lives in areas with mobile network coverage.

Currently, the Ministry of Finance is partnering with the Ministry of Education and the Association of Mobile Money Operators on an innovative teacher salary payment pilot that aims to increase the number of bank accounts and electronic salary payments. The government is also conducting a mobile / electronic utility payment pilot in Kabul targeting 100,000 electricity customers.

The shift to electronic payments in programs that currently distribute cash or in-kind goods to people living in poverty can result in significant cost savings, transparency, security, and economic growth. For example, a recent report by the World Bank found that governments can save up to 75 percent of costs by shifting to electronic payment programs.  

The Better Than Cash Alliance works with governments, the development community and the private sector to adopt the use of electronic payments and provides resources to those who commit to make the transition.  USAID will use its programs to help transition developing countries from cash payments to electronic payments with an eye towards greater gender equality and financial inclusion.

Today 2.5 billion adults— more than a third of the world’s population—are excluded from the formal financial sector. This is most acute in the developing world where approximately 80% of poor people are excluded. As a result, most poor households have no option but to subsist almost entirely in an informal, cash-only economy, making it extraordinarily difficult for them to access financial services like bank accounts, to save for the future, build assets or get credit. Electronic payments can create lasting benefits for people by creating opportunities to access formal financial services and begin to develop assets and save for the future. 

“We are pleased to join the Better Than Cash Alliance as a committing member dedicated to making the transition from cash to electronic payments,” said Mohammed Aqah, Director General of Treasury, Ministry of Finance in Afghanistan. “We recognize the value of accelerating the use of safe electronic payments as a solution for promoting financial inclusion, increasing transparency, and creating a more secure world for women and their families.” 

Afghanistan joins the governments of Colombia, Kenya, Peru, and the Philippines, along with development organizations USAID, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Food Programme, Mercy Corps, CARE USA, Chemonics International, and Concern Worldwide, which have committed to digitize their disbursements and payments to people living in poverty, thereby becoming eligible members for technical and financial support from the Better Than Cash Alliance.

“We commend Afghanistan on their leadership and commitment to empower people by transitioning to electronic payments,” said Ms. Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director of the Better Than Cash Alliance. “While the benefits of electronic payments are many, this shift requires resources and technical expertise and we look forward to providing this through our partnership with Afghanistan.”

To join the Better Than Cash Alliance a government, company or organizations must:

  1. Make a new commitment to digitize their disbursement of payments.
  2. Designate senior staff member(s) to create and implement a change management program to reduce physical cash payments.
  3. Share lessons learned with the Better Than Cash Alliance to inspire and equip others to overcome transition challenges. 

As a partner, organizations will be:

  1. Eligible for technical assistance and/or funding to support the transition, if needed.
  2. Recognized for leadership in Better Than Cash Alliance publications and media.
  3. Invited to participate in learning opportunities as appropriate.
  4. Given access to the latest research and case studies about lessons learned and what’s working for other Better Than Cash Alliance programme partners. 

About Better Than Cash Alliance

The Better Than Cash Alliance partners with governments, the development community and the private sector to empower people by shifting from cash to electronic payments. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi, Ford Foundation, Omidyar Network, USAID and Visa Inc. are the founders and the U.N. Capital Development Fund serves as the secretariat. To learn more, visit and follow @BetterThan_Cash

Last updated: September 25, 2017

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