IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, has partnered with Azerpost, Azerbaijan’s national postal service, to boost electronic financial services in Azerbaijan as part of an effort to modernize and widen access to financial services for population and private sector, especially in remote areas, APA reports.
IFC will work with Azerpost to help introduce an electronic wallet, an online service that allows users to make electronic transactions. Azerpost, in parallel with postal services, has recently launched financial services offering under limited banking license. The cooperation will help Azerpost provide selected financial services as an agent of other financial institutions and educate its customers on how to use digital financial services. The work is led by IFC’s Electronic and Digital Financial Services Project, which is implemented in partnership with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs of Switzerland SECO.
The initiative will make it easier for individuals and small businesses, especially those in rural areas with no access to bank branches, to make payments and get access to basic banking services electronically, without having to visit banks. This is an important development for Azerbaijan, where only around 29 percent of people have an account at a financial institution. This is well below the average for Europe and Central Asia, according to the World Bank’s Financial Inclusion Data Global Findex.
Emin Afandiyev, General Director of Azerpost, said; “Cooperation with IFC will help open new opportunities for Azerpost. As a result of this partnership, we will play an important role in financial inclusion of a large part of Azerbaijan’s population that is currently unbanked.”
“Electronic payments are often vital, especially in times of pandemics, like the one we’re facing now. This initiative is part of our broader strategy to help diversify Azerbaijan’s economy and spur economic growth, in this case through support for electronic financial services,” said Jan van Bilsen, IFC Regional Manager for the South Caucasus.
Given that electronic and digital financial services are important elements of modern financial systems, the development of an electronic wallet can also help make Azerbaijan’s banking system more resilient and open to investments.
Azerbaijan became a member of IFC in 1995. Since then, IFC has invested around $473 million in the country, including $73 million through mobilization. Those funds have financed 56 projects across a range of sectors, including financial services, infrastructure, and manufacturing. In addition, IFC has supported around $100 million in trade through its trade finance program and provided $250 million for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. IFC has also implemented a range of advisory projects aimed at encouraging private sector growth.