How Can We Get Refugees to Adopt Digital Financial Services? Lessons from Jordan


Hosting refugees is part of Jordan’s DNA: we have the second-highest refugee population per capita in the world. Throughout our country’s history, we have experienced several mass influxes of refugees. In 1948 and 1967, thousands of Palestinians sought safe haven here. Wars in Iraq and Syria in 2003 and 2011 respectively brought many thousands more refugees. Most arrive with nothing. Financial inclusion is critical in helping them reconstruct their lives. And in Jordan, that process starts with a digital payment.

The Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) and, more recently, the Jordan Payments & Clearing Company (JoPACC), alongside partners like UNHCR, have been working for a decade to create a robust, digital payment model and infrastructure. New arrivals receive an identification document that allows them to open a bank account or mobile wallet, where they receive monthly cash aid from UNHCR.

Today, 100% of UNHCR registered refugees receive their cash aid digitally, while their mobile wallets allow them to access basic financial services like saving money, paying bills, and making transfers (nationally and internationally) through JoMoPay – the mobile payment switch that operates all mobile wallets in Jordan. This provides them with a rare level of financial independence and the chance to establish a solid credit history.

While refugees receive cash aid payments digitally, this does not necessarily mean they have embraced, or will adopt, digital financial services. In reality, a cash culture still dominates among refugees in Jordan.

A lack of financial literacy means that many refugees are either unfamiliar with, or skeptical of using, mobile banking. They prefer to withdraw cash from an ATM, rather than making use of mobile wallet benefits.

Additionally, many women don’t feel comfortable dealing directly with male mobile money agents. Some refugees are reluctant to use mobile wallets, due to concerns that it goes against Sharia law.

As a result, advocacy continues to be critical to the mass adoption of digital financial services among our refugees.

JoPACC’s outreach programs provide financial education and awareness to refugees about the use and benefits of digital and other financial services. We conduct regular surveys and studies, in partnership with digital financial service providers, to understand the customer experience, to identify and resolve potential usage gaps, and to ensure digital products really meet refugees’ needs.

We are currently in talks with UNHCR on using JoPACC’s electronic Know Your Customer (e-KYC) platform to simplify the onboarding of refugees to digital financial services. This could serve as yet another motivation for refugees to embrace its benefits.

Throughout our history, Jordan has benefitted tremendously from including its refugee population. Refugees who have been with us for decades have contributed significantly to society, both economically and culturally. By facilitating refugees’ digital financial inclusion, we can help them not just to rebuild their lives, but to achieve their full potential.

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