22 May 2018, Yangon, Myanmar: Myanma AWBA Group and United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) have entered into a partnership to support 1-STOP, the innovative ‘Digital Convenience Store’ venture between Myanma Awba Group and 2C2P with the aim of helping small businesses diversify with over 30 digital service offerings.
The partnership, co-funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), aims to empower low-income women business owners in Myanmar financially by giving them the opportunity to become agents for 1-STOP, empowering them through digital services to earn additional income streams. Incentivizing female business owners to become agents has an additional benefit for their communities – the expansion of a women agent network into rural areas provides local people with the opportunity to access basic digital services via the women agents, the first step towards bolstering inclusion in the formal financial market.
The project will run for 24 months, with investment from UNCDF, AWBA and 1-STOP directly aiding 6,000 women-owned retail shops while reaching over 70,000 customers. The services provided by the women agent include Mobile Prepaid, Bill Payments and e-Commerce cash acceptance for flight and bus tickets across a network of 30 content providers and 100 e-commerce merchants.
“Only 29 per cent of women have access to formal financial services, and just 7 per cent between the ages of 18 and 34 have a formal bank account. Research has also shown that women in Myanmar face more obstacles to financial inclusion, often facing prohibitive financing terms that make access to financial services difficult,” said Rajeev Kumar Gupta, Programme Manager for UNCDF SHIFT.
The partnership between Myanma AWBA and UNCDF supports the current policy framework in Myanmar to focus on women as active and independent participants of the national economy, and to foster greater participation of women in the workforce, especially when considering professional or managerial roles.
“With more people in Myanmar using smartphones and digital services, 1-STOP now seeks to take advantage of this unique opportunity to bring more women into the formal economy. We want women to be powerful agent of change, so it is important for them to have access to the financial tools they need to pursue their entrepreneurial goals,” Lynn Htaik Aung, Managing Director of 1-STOP says.
“UNCDF came to Myanmar with the objective of empowering low-income women by guaranteeing their access to finance, done at the beginning through microfinance. What we have now is the natural enhancement of that process, both ensuring a source of income for the women agents and their families, and as a point of access to payments and remittance services for the rest of their community. I believe that those women will transform not only their families but their communities as a whole,” said Paul Luchtenburg, Country Coordinator for UNCDF in Myanmar.
1-STOP empowers the traditional retail store as a ‘Digital Convenience Store’ which provide consumers with Mobile Prepaid, Gift Prepaid, Bill Payments and e-Commerce cash acceptance for flight tickets, bus tickets and many online retailers. The 1-STOP platform enables 30+ digital services, 31+ content providers and 100+ e-commerce merchants via 15,000+ retail partners, including Grab & Go Convenience Stores and the Myanma Awba Agriculture retail network.
Since 2012, UNCDF has been in Myanmar implementing a variety of projects which improve financial inclusion, particularly for those not served or marginally served. Globally, UNCDF makes public and private finance work for the poor in the world’s 47 least developed countries. With its capital mandate and instruments, UNCDF offers “last mile” finance models that unlock public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to reduce poverty and support local economic development. UNCDF’s financing models work through two channels: financial inclusion that expands the opportunities for individuals, households, and small businesses to participate in the local economy, providing them with the tools they need to climb out of poverty and manage their financial lives; and by showing how localized investments — through fiscal decentralization, innovative municipal finance, and structured project finance — can drive public and private funding that underpins local economic expansion and sustainable development. By strengthening how finance works for poor people at the household, small enterprise, and local infrastructure levels, UNCDF contributes to Goal 1 of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals on eradicating poverty and Goal 17 on the means of implementation. By identifying those market segments where innovative financing models can have transformational impact in helping to reach the last mile and address exclusion and inequalities of access, UNCDF contributes to a number of different SDGs.
About Myanma Awba Group
Myanma Awba Group, established in 1995, is Myanmar’s largest manufacturer and distributor of agricultural technology with a focus on crop protection, crop nutrition, and high-quality seeds. The group employs 1,500 agronomists to serve 3.5 million farming families over agriculturally significant rural areas through advisory services and is one of the largest private employers of agronomists in the region. The Group also provides holistic solutions in micro-finance, digital tools, manufacturing and logistics. Awba Group is a passionate advocate of sustainable and responsible businesses and funds a diverse range of projects in education, healthcare, infrastructure. The Group is currently implementing several initiatives to secure access to clean water and electricity for remote areas of the country.