The FINANCIAL — At Mobile World Congress, Mastercard and Unilever on March 1 announced a strategic partnership to collaborate on a range of joint initiatives aimed at empowering small and micro businesses in emerging markets.
By combining their expertise and reach, the companies intend to unlock economic growth and further advance specific Sustainable Development Goals such as poverty reduction and sustainable cities and communities.
According to the World Bank, there are somewhere between 365 and 445 million micro-, small and medium enterprises in the developing world, representing the economic backbone of many local communities. Yet, the true potential for these businesses remains untapped. Some of the biggest barriers for their further growth include limited market information, poor access to money, and a lack of financial management skills.
Matching Unilever distribution network with digital payments from Mastercard
By matching up Unilever’s network of distributors in developing countries with digital payment and acceptance solutions from Mastercard, technology resources will be activated to drive inclusive growth at greater scale.
As a first step, Mastercard and Unilever will explore ways to enable better access to formal financial tools for smaller retail outlets while also building entrepreneurship capacity, particularly for women and girls. Additional focus areas may include joint efforts to increase the usage of electronic payments across both wholesale and retail locations.
“Too many small merchants and micro entrepreneurs are stuck, like their customers, in a cash economy that doesn’t work for them,” said Ajay Banga, president and CEO, Mastercard. “With Unilever, we can bring a unique combination of technology and know-how to help these shop owners build a better future and serve their customers who are themselves on a path towards financial inclusion.”
Paul Polman, Chief Executive, Unilever added: “Strategic partnerships such as this are critical to helping us improve our business and positively impact the lives of 5.5 million people by 2020. By working together, we can have a much greater impact in emerging markets, empowering small scale enterprises and bringing about the transformative change necessary to meet the aims of the Sustainable Development Goals and our business.”
First pilot project in Kenya
In Kenya, the companies are jointly designing a program to enable sustainable growth of small retail entrepreneurs. By digitizing the processes of buying supplies and selling goods small vendors will gain access to low-interest credit. This will empower them to better answer shopper demand and grow their business while upskilling themselves through basic insight tools.