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BFL Receives UN Support For Female-run Businesses

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Banque Franco Lao Ltd (BFL) has been awarded a grant by UNCDF’s SHIFT Challenge Fund’s Second Window for Women’s Financial Inclusion, funded by the Australian Government.

The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is the UN’s capital investment agency for the world’s 48 least developed countries.

The grant will be used to implement a payment digitisation initiative involving small female-run retail businesses in Laos in partnership with Lao companies who have retailers in their supply chains.

BFL plans to promote access to Digital Financial Services for 7,000 retailers, mainly comprising small female-run businesses. BFL will be moving distribution chain finance to electronic money in the future and will then use it as a launch pad for a Digital Financial Services offer available on mobile phones.

A signing ceremony for the award to BFL by the UNCDF SHIFT Challenge Fund to expand financial businesses through Digital Financial Services took place in Vientiane on Friday between UNCDF Regional Coordinator (Asia) Mr Feisal Hussain and BFL Managing Director Mr Guillaume Perdon.

The ceremony was also attended by the Australian Ambassador to Laos, Mr John Williams.

The initiative will enable clients and non-clients to access an account and various financial services such as fund transfers, bill payment and cash-in/cash-out. These activities are being launched in line with BFL’s strategic initiative to better address the female entrepreneur market.

This BFL project will be supported by UNCDF’s SHIFT Challenge Fund’s second window, titled Fostering Innovative Business Models for Women’s Financial Inclusion, to expand financial access by the Lao population through Digital Financial Services.

The grant has been awarded to BFL for a two-year project estimated to cost US$750,000, of which BFL will invest US$46,000 with UNCDF SHIFT to provide the remaining amount as a grant.

The project aims to pilot and establish digital financing to distribution chains and women’s businesses, benefitting over 20,600 users in Vientiane and in the main provinces of Laos by 2018. It complements the Bank of the Lao PDR’s active promotion of Digital Financial Services to widen access to financial services by rural and poor people.

The financing agreement will support BFL’s social development impact by targeting not only its core market segments – corporate, small and medium enterprises and individual clients – but also micro and very small businesses owned or managed by women that are currently underserved or excluded from the formal financial system.

Banque Franco Lao Ltd is co-owned by the BRED Group, the largest commercial bank within the BPCE Group in France, and BCEL, the main Lao public bank, and opened for business in Laos in 2010.

Today, BFL owns a network of 22 service units, with 12 in Vientiane, 10 in key towns outside the capital and 43 ATMs across the country.

BFL offers a wide range of loan, deposit and debit card products to more than 22,000 retail and business customers. BFL’s ambition is to provide innovative banking solutions and to support the people of Laos in building a sustainable future.

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.

The agency’s finance models work through 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.

UNCDF expands financial inclusion in Laos through its joint programme Making Access to Finance more Inclusive for Poor People, through the Bank of the Lao PDR and its Asean-wide programme Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations, both with generous contributions from the Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Source: Vientiane Times