— Interview with Tara Nathan, executive director for public-private partnerships, MasterCard, USA
Tara Nathan leads partnership developments with NGOs and development and multilateral organizations to promote electronic payments for the unbanked and underserved.
MasterCard is a technology company in the payment space. We create payments interoperability between numerous payers and payees across the globe. That happens along several layers—like a stacked capability. At the core level there’s a technology platform—that’s physical connectivity. A lot of people stop at this technological layer and think that is what interoperability means. But with over 40 years of experience building interoperability, we know that technology is the easiest part. The real challenge is building the business processes, rules, standards, and enforcement mechanisms that create the necessary interoperability to deliver payments that are safe, secure, and reliable. That is what we do at MasterCard.
Traditionally, we used to work more in developed countries with banks—issuers and acquires. Over the course of the past 10 years, that model has been gradually evolving to now include telecommunication companies, governments, and post offices. These new players are helping create payment networks that reach further down the economic ladder by delivering services more efficiently. And MasterCard provides the necessary connectivity between all those players, enabling the ability to scale very quickly.
MasterCard believes that there is a way to create real social impact through our core business, which is all about inclusion and connecting people to financial services. Financial inclusion can have a profound impact on helping people living in and near poverty. Each year, about 20 to 30 percent of the world’s poor migrate out of poverty. The challenge is that each year, around the same number regress into poverty. We can have real impact on solving world poverty by stemming the backward movement. Numerous studies have shown the positive things that happen when someone is able to save and access their money. Women invest in their families, reinvest in their children’s education, and invest in higher quality foods—and these actions are investments in a move out of poverty.
In South Africa, we are partnering with the Social Security Administration to distribute funds electronically. In a country where about 1 of every 3 adults receives some type of government assistance, that equals about 22 million people receiving social security benefits on a MasterCard with biometric identification. That biometric capability addresses the challenges of both confirming identity and improving usage by overcoming the barriers posed by illiteracy and innumeracy.
Another program we are most proud of is in Nigeria, where MasterCard is partnering with the government to create a national ID. We see that as the largest financial inclusion initiative on the continent of Africa. At the same time that the government is providing everybody with a formal ID, the people are also getting a tool that will help them easily receive funds and make payments. That’s quite game-changing.
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- Where’s the Map?
- Global Data Show Diverging Paths
- Integrated Health and Microfinance
- Saving Groups
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- Agricultural Value Chains
- Conditional Cash-Transfer Programs
- Digital Finance
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