Mastercard is doubling down on its commitment to financial inclusion. The company has already brought 500 formerly unbanked people into the modern financial ecosystem to fulfill a five-year goal, and is now looking to raise that number to 1 billion people (and 50 million small businesses) before the end of 2025.
To get there, Mastercard is planning to make a major push in Latin America in particular. The financial giant recently launched a new initiative in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that will seek to bring digital capabilities to 5 million people and 1 million small businesses in the Northern Triangle region. Mastercard’s Digital Allies in Latin America and the Caribbean program was similarly set up to help businesses adapt to an online environment.
According to Mastercard, businesses and individuals that make the leap will enjoy tangible benefits that go well beyond basic convenience (though convenience is certainly a factor). For example, people that rely solely on cash may have a harder time getting a fair or consistent price for their goods, and may struggle to get credit to build a business. Cash can also make those people more vulnerable, insofar as they have little recourse if their funds are lost or stolen.
Someone with a bank account, on the other hand, can have their paycheck deposited directly into their account, and will no longer need to travel from a remote area to a city to get it cashed. Digital payments would further reduce their reliance on cash, and enable online payments directly at the point of sale with participating local establishments.
Mastercard went on to note that Latin America has one of the world’s highest rates of early-stage entrepreneurship for women, which makes the region vital to its plans to raise inclusion for women. The company is hoping to provide financial support for 25 million female entrepreneurs internationally, and has partnered with USAID to launch multiple programs in Latin America specifically. That includes the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, as well as the Start Path Empodera accelerator for women in Colombia.
The Start Path Empodera program is a more targeted version of Mastercard’s broader Start Path accelerator program. Mastercard itself recently revealed that it will be offering full support for the Sand Dollar digital currency in the Bahamas.