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06.21.17

Mastercard, Western Union Designing Digital Solutions for Refugees

Mastercard and Western Union have teamed up to help refugees around the world access goods, services and financial services within refugee settlements. Announced on June 20—World Refugee Day—the partnership will explore ways to use a digital model to serve the more than 65 million people around the world currently displaced from their homes due to political conflict and natural disasters.

The collaboration will aim to enable refugees, their host communities and donors to send and receive funds digitally, creating more transparency and long-term empowerment of refugees, according to Mastercard and Western Union.

Over the past year, the firms studied a pair of settlement camps in northwestern Kenya to examine the needs, challenges and opportunities for refugees and their host communities. The findings led to the development of Smart Communities: Using Digital Technology to Create Sustainable Refugee Economies, a blueprint designed to serve refugees by combining digital access to remittances, banking, education, health care and other basic needs in way that is “unified and trackable.”

The model emphasizes digital solutions including the delivery of mobile money, digital vouchers and prepaid cards, noted Maureen Sigliano, head of customer relationship management, Western Union. “The goal is to drive personal empowerment, stimulate growth and promote social cohesion among the world’s refugee populations, while driving better governance and transparency,” she said.

Both Mastercard and Western Union are founding members of the Tent Partnership for Refugees, a coalition of more than 70 companies committed to addressing the global refugee crisis. In 2016, Mastercard was named Pay Awards Change Agent of the Year for its Mastercard Aid Network, an end-to-end solution that streamlines humanitarian aid distribution by using debit cards preloaded with credits for physical goods such as food and medicine. Mastercard later expanded the aid network by combining it with the network’s money transfer and prepaid capabilities to offer other forms of aid, including digital cash and vouchers.

“The private sector is uniquely positioned to bring greater innovation and ingenuity to this crisis,” said Gideon Maltz, executive director of Tent. The Mastercard-Western Union initiative “reflects the contributions that companies can make when they identify problems, collaborate with each other, and work tirelessly to find and fund scalable solutions to fix them,” added Maltz.

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