Digitisation contributes to improved remittance access and a better customer experience


This article was written by Melanie Fairhurst. The original article was published by Cenfri. You can find the article here.

The Remittance Access Initiative (RAI) is a programme set up through a partnership between IFAD’s Financing Facility for Remittances (FFR) and Cenfri. Cenfri is working with a range of remittance service providers (RSPs) to improve access to cheaper, faster, and safer remittance services. This article covers a related innovation that was implemented by Ecobank in Uganda. 

When someone sends money to a family member or friend, the remittance recipient who opts to cash out via a bank would typically: 

  1. Travel to a bank branch 
  2. Fill out a paper money-transfer form with the transaction details  
  3. Wait in line for a teller to process the form  
  4. Verify their identity before finally receiving their funds 

While this is the norm, cashing out remittances is not necessarily quick or easy. People who have limited literacy are more likely to rely on others to complete the forms, which can result in additional waiting time. Alternatively, they may make errors when completing the forms independently – errors that in Ecobank Uganda’s experience result in around 5% of the forms being rejected.1  

Cenfri collaborated with Ecobank Uganda to evaluate their remittance-linked processes and explore where improvements could be made. Reducing bottlenecks in the customer journey was identified as a means of deterring people from resorting to informal remittance practices, which are not always reliable or secure.  

After assessing the physical money-transfer form and the digital information linked to the transaction (digitally submitted by the remittance sender and the international money transfer operator – MTO), the team recommended addition of information fields to the digital records, thereby making the physical form unnecessary. Once the in-house technical experts had implemented these changes, Cenfri worked with the bank to train their staff on the new system and advise on communicating the benefits to potential customers. 

Now, remittance recipients need only bring their remittance reference number and a valid form of identity to the branch. The teller can print the system-generated receipt for the remittance transaction and the customer simply signs to confirm all the information is accurate and receives their funds. (Information on the receipts can be read to less-literate customers.) 

These changes equate to simpler and faster access to remittances for recipients. Whereas they previously spent, on average, an estimated 25 minutes waiting for their money, use of system-generated receipts means that transactions can be processed in approximately 10 minutes. 

This solution has been impactful for the bank and has significantly reduced rejections due to customers completing the money transfer form incorrectly. In addition, during the period under review, Ecobank Uganda also witnessed a 69% increase in remittance transactions (all other products and services being equal). This bodes well for a bank that is committed to digitising its remittance processes.   

Cenfri is encouraged by these results in Uganda and expects similar results – improved remittance processes for individuals – in Ghana, as Ecobank is piloting system-generated receipts there as well.  

The Remittance Access Initiative is a two-year programme to improve access to cheaper, faster and safer remittance services through identity proofing and related customer due diligence (CDD) and know-your-customer (KYC) innovations. If you would like to know more about the initiative contact Masiiwa Rusare via masiiwa@cenfri.org. 


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