Homepage / Currency / In dirt-poor Myanmar, smartphones are transforming finance
Google and Facebook are watching our every move online. It's time to make them stop Daymond John tells shy airline passenger: You should have talked to me on the plane South Korea says it has no plans to shut down cryptocurrency trading AMD shares surge as Wall Street analysts say the chipmaker is ‘executing on all fronts’ James Altucher, the face of bitcoin, says he’s happy about Facebook’s cryptocurrency ad ban Pending home sales eke out 0.5 percent gain in December as supply shrinks to record low Uber is testing bike sharing in San Francisco The real source of the internet's problems might be the advertising business Game publisher EA's sales forecast tops estimates, sending shares higher GE will likely be dropped from the Dow, Deutsche Bank predicts Samsung surpasses Intel as world's biggest chipmaker for the first time Apple could be the best of the bunch in this tech earnings avalanche The 9-year stock rally still has 'years left,' says one of Wall Street's most bullish strategists Apple: We would never degrade the iPhone experience to get users to buy new phones Bitcoin headed for biggest monthly drop since January 2015 with nearly $60 billion of value wiped off ADP boosts forecast as new tax law spurs demand China 'will open even wider to the UK,' says Prime Minister Li Keqiang Big market swings are something you’re going to have to get used to, says Wells Fargo The dollar keeps weakening. Is that good news for the world? Apple downgraded by BMO, expects iPhone maker to slash revenue forecast this week SoftBank buys majority stake in Japanese messaging giant Line’s mobile division Rising interest rates cause a 2.6% pullback in weekly mortgage applications Trump's State of the Union address 'less hard' than first feared in Asia Trump vows to protect US intellectual property, without naming China Blockchain technology to boost Microsoft earnings, trader says Fujifilm to take over Xerox and combine it into the joint venture Fuji Xerox Samsung is making chips designed to mine cryptocurrencies like bitcoin There’s a risk of market turbulence, but it’s unlikely to hit until 2019, says Santander chairman We'll see up to a 15 percent correction in 2018, Swiss bank CEO says Japan's biggest messaging app Line is planning to launch a cryptocurrency exchange Quicksilver surfwear CEO missing at sea off the coast of France Venezuela says will pre-sell 'petro' cryptocurrency on Feb. 20 Nintendo ups its Switch sales expectations to 15 million units after profits rise 261% European markets seen mixed amid earnings and economic data The UK wants free trade with China. Beijing has its own goals Santander fourth-quarter net profit down 4 percent on US impairments The man who almost became ambassador to South Korea just warned about US plans for North Korea China's Leshi Internet flags $1.8 billion loss for 2017, citing conglomerate cash crunch South Korea says it uncovered about $600 million in cryptocurrency crimes Asia became less democratic in 2017 Al Gore's investment firm backs start-up created by Facebook co-founder Theresa May says she wants a free trade deal with China Chinese manufacturing weaker than expected in January Webpass is leaving Boston in latest sign of Google Fiber’s shrinking ambitions Samsung posts record fourth-quarter profit Asian shares look set for more declines as Wall Street sells off for a second day Don't count insurers out yet after Amazon-Berkshire-JP Morgan move Amazon's health care move could be a big win for consumer health start-ups Red Hat buys CoreOS, a start-up that sold tech developed by Google Here’s what Amazon told employees today about its landmark deal to deliver better health care Top official resigns after false missile alert in Hawaii Crazy odds: These online traders bet on the chaos of Washington and the Trump administration AMD falls despite beating Q4 estimates Facebook ban on bitcoin ads latest in very bad day for cryptocurrencies Indian man dies after being sucked into an MRI machine while carrying an oxygen cylinder Advice for Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon from a failed effort to control health costs Toys R Us poor holiday sales cast doubts on its future and could force renegotiation of loan terms The Apple sell-off is a buying opportunity into earnings, says trader Google partnership on mobile cloud services drives up MobileIron shares Facebook is banning all ads promoting cryptocurrencies — including bitcoin and ICOs Amazon's moves in health care over the last year are finally starting to make sense Buffett is getting a second chance to partner with Bezos after missing on Amazon as an investment How Pencils of Promise got a $1 million donation from an anonymous bitcoin multi-millionaire Amazon's home devices could be a key to cheaper health care, tech investor Roger McNamee says Two ex-Google engineers built an entirely different kind of self-driving car Cryptocurrencies join the global financial market sell-off as bitcoin drops 7% A travel agent is trying to charge fees for sunbeds Most of the tax cut windfall will boost buybacks and dividends, not workers' pockets, survey predicts The professor who wrote the book on making addictive technology is having second thoughts Trump's immigration policies are 'economic poison' that will cost taxpayers billions Airbnb trolls President Trump ahead of the State of the Union The iPhone X's $1,000 price tag scared everyone away Drop, a rewards app start-up, snags Airbnb's former head of engineering SEC halts one of the largest 'ICOs' ever as it wades deeper into the murky world of cryptocurrency offerings Passing on sanctions, Trump goes even softer on Russia than expected Buy insurers on dip as new initiative from Amazon, Berkshire and JP Morgan is ‘more bark than bite’: Analyst High schools stock up on Narcan to combat teen opioid crisis in US Apple will finally replace the fax machine in health care Apple is reportedly delaying new iOS features until next year because of quality problems Bond expert predicts a ‘wall of buying’ in Treasurys will protect the stock market Home prices surge to new high, up 6.2% in November Noted tech investor says the sector is not the best place to invest right now Sterling predicted to hit pre-Brexit vote level before the end of 2018 Stocks making the biggest moves premarket: AMZN, BRKB, JPM, AAPL, BX, TSLA & more Bitcoin boom to give AMD earnings a boost, says MKM Partners Apple shares fall again on another report of fading iPhone X demand Trump advisor Cohn: President to focus on $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan in State of the Union Why don't foreign investors take fright more often? The dollar is doing something it hasn’t done since 1987 UnitedHealth, CVS plunge on Bezos, Buffett and Dimon plan to improve U.S. health care Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan Chase to team in landmark new health care company Can earnings afford to slow down? 'Enemies of the USA': Russia slams America's list of oligarchs with ties to Putin The app that exposed the location of military bases with a heat map is reviewing its features For his next act, former Amex CEO Ken Chenault turns his focus on Silicon Valley Child experts: Just say ‘no’ to Facebook’s kids app Ryanair agrees to recognize British pilots union for first time Arab states are 'determined' to stick with reforms despite deepening 'frustration', IMF says The US 'oligarch list' is strikingly similar to Forbes’ richest Russians ranking Indian ride-hailing firm Ola expands to Australia to take on Uber

Currency

In dirt-poor Myanmar, smartphones are transforming finance

MYANMAR’S democratic transition sometimes seems marked as much by continuity as by change. Depressingly, the army continues its bloody persecution of Rohingya Muslims in the west, for example (see article). But elsewhere moves to open the country’s markets, started by the preceding military regimes, have gathered pace. New commercial and financial services are springing up.

Take Khin Hlaing, who owns Global Mobile Shop, a small store surrounded by tarpaulin-covered stalls selling fresh fruit in Hlaing Tharyar, an industrial area outside Yangon, the biggest city. He is one of almost 12,000 agents for Wave Money, Myanmar’s largest mobile-money transfer platform. Most days about 20 people use his shop to send funds to friends or family elsewhere in the country. One customer, who walks in wearing a long red longyi and delicately beaded top, says she was at first nervous about Wave. A clothesmaker, she now sends earnings through it twice a month at a cost of 500 kyat ($0.37) a go. She says Wave’s appeal is its “convenience”.

  • In “Rest”, Charlotte Gainsbourg explores the sharp edges of grief

  • Taxing the rich

  • The rise of the podcast adaptation

  • Why malaria is spreading in Venezuela

  • Donald Trump’s latest travel ban faces fresh lawsuits

  • How “regularising” undocumented immigrants brings benefits

Globally 2bn people lack savings accounts and access to credit. Cash-dependence leaves them vulnerable to crime. And governments struggle to collect taxes, spend on development and get money to those in need. Economies suffer as small businesses are starved of loans. Digital initiatives could help 1.6bn people obtain access to financial services for the first time, reckons the McKinsey Global Institute, a research wing of the consulting firm. Those providing them could boost their balance-sheets by $4.2trn into the bargain.

In Myanmar cash is king. Fewer than one in ten of its 53m people has a bank account. But an explosion in smartphone use means rudimentary financial offerings are appearing where even roads are rare. After the end of the state’s mobile-phone monopoly four years ago, mobile penetration jumped from 7% to 89% now. Billboards line Yangon touting the selfie-taking skills of phones made by Vivo and Oppo, two Chinese handset-makers. Teenagers blithely test them at street-corner noodle stalls. Foreign telecoms firms, notably Norway’s Telenor and Qatar’s Ooredoo, have entered the market, bringing cash with them: in 2014 and 2015 telecommunications accounted for $2.8bn in foreign direct investment, almost a third of the total. 

Wave Money is Telenor’s mobile-money service; Ooredoo’s M-Pitesan, which launched last month, is a fledgling rival. Others are emerging too, but Wave is ahead of the pack. It has backing from Yoma Bank, Myanmar’s fourth-largest, with a balance-sheet of $1.3bn. Wave did charge more than banks for transfers, says its boss, Brad Jones. But it lowered its prices last month to undercut most of them. For customers, it may still be an easier option. Rigid business hours mean that people often have to skip work to stand in queues at the bank instead. More than six in ten of Wave’s transactions occur in the evenings or at weekends, Mr Jones estimates. Besides, banks are few and far between in Myanmar. Hal Bosher, the Canadian head of Yoma Bank, says it can cost $500,000 to set up a new branch, and he has just 80. “I’ve got branches with bullet holes in, and branches which flood,” he explains. Wave, by contrast, has a presence in 255 of Myanmar’s 330 townships. 

Last year Myanmar’s central bank introduced tough rules on mobile financial services, inspired by those in countries such as Kenya. Wave was the first company to register under them in October and uses the details associated with a customer’s SIM card to satisfy identification requirements, for example. Mr Jones points out that the small sums transferred mean the service is unlikely to attract fraudsters and criminals. Sharmin Sultana of BRAC Myanmar, the Burmese arm of a big Bangladeshi NGO, hopes that the platform can speed up repayments for microloans and eventually be used to develop credit scores. Wave has yet to turn a profit, despite processing almost 100,000 transactions a month. Its focus so far on spreading its name, and raising awareness of what it does, has not been cheap. But Mr Bosher exudes patience: change will come because “the banking sector in Myanmar is so bad”.

Source: economist
In dirt-poor Myanmar, smartphones are transforming finance

Comments are closed.