“Agent banking holds the potential to further enhance banking services and credit access for rural entrepreneurs, including women and youth. It is expected to gradually replace MFIs due to its convenience and lower costs”, said Dr. Ahsan H. Mansur, eminent Economist and Executive Director, Policy Research Institute (PRI).
He said to ensure the inclusion of women and achieve a balanced distribution of outlets, banks should set specific targets for outlets in different regions and increase the recruitment of female agents.
Dr. Mansur made the remarks while presenting keynote paper in a training workshop at PRI office Banani in the capital.
The PRI organized the training Programme for Journalists on “Scope and Possibilities of Digital Financial Services (DFS) in Bangladesh”.
The training programme was organized as part of the “Policy Initiative for DFS in Bangladesh” project. The programme aimed to engage journalists and media representatives in technical and policy discussion on issues related to DFS and financial inclusion in Bangladesh.
The training programme was attended by 29 journalists from different media houses. Dr. Zaidi Sattar, Chairman, PRI provided welcome remarks in the event. The training programme included two technical sessions facilitated by Dr. Ahsan H. Mansur, Executive Director, PRI and Dr. Bazlul H. Khondker, Director, PRI, respectively.
In his session on “Agent Banking and Financial Deepening”, Dr. Mansur shed light on the transformative role of agent banking in rural areas and its impact on financial inclusion.
Bangladesh has made remarkable strides in reducing poverty and improving the socio-economic status of its rural population over the past five decades.
However, access to finance remains a significant constraint to sustained development in these regions, with Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) charging high interest rates.
Dr. Ahsan Mansur highlighted the success of agent banking, emphasizing its presence in rural areas where agents, who are community members, build trust with customers. Currently, the model has reached an impressive 16.5 million clients, a testament to its effectiveness in providing financial services to previously underserved regions.
In the second technical session on “Use of DFS among Households and Firms”, Dr. Khondker talked about an ongoing study of PRI that seeks to assess the economic impact of financial inclusion in Bangladesh from a macroeconomic perspective.
“From our analysis, we see that rural households and cottage, micro and small firms are mostly dependent on microfinance loans which they can avail without much hassle but at a very high interest rate of around 23%-24% or above,” said Dr. Bazlul H. Khondker, Director, PRI.