As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt worldwide economies and everyday life, Mastercard vows to connect 1 billion people and 50 micro-businesses to the digital economy by 2025. In addition, the company will offer tools to 25 million female entrepreneurs to fuel business growth.
Ajay Banga, chief executive officer at Mastercard, said in a statement that long term recovery from the crisis is dependent on inclusion. He said that this moves beyond philanthropy and offers a chance to “develop commercially-sustainable and scalable social impact with government and private sector partners — and to do it in a way that helps society-at-large thrive.”
Some 60 percent of the global population calls the Asia Pacific home, according to UNFPA. The region is the fastest-growing economy worldwide, but the pandemic has slowed the number of people who will escape poverty, according to the World Bank.
Mastercard’s latest pledge builds on its 2015 financial inclusion effort to bring financial services to 500 million people. It also builds on the firm’s goals of reaching out to people all over the world who are facing physical and financial health issues due to COVID-19.
Ling Hai, co-president of Asia Pacific at Mastercard, said that the pandemic has shown that the digital economy can “sustain societies and commerce during times of great adversity.” It has also revealed “the extreme disadvantage” faced by individuals and small businesses left out of the digital economy who need “affordable financial products and services.”
“For SMEs, access to the digital economy allows them to manage expenses and invoices and to automate and secure processes, freeing up valuable time and resources to focus on other aspects of running their businesses,” Ling Hai added.
According to the Asia Development Bank, SMEs make up the underpinning of Asia Pacific economies, “making up more than 96 percent of all businesses and providing two-thirds of private-sector jobs,” Ling Hai said.
Bringing them into the digital economy “is a powerful force multiplier for societies. The urgent need to do so has never been greater.”
Mastercard said it met its goals over the past five years to bring digital access to 500 million people via 350-plus programs in 80 countries. To reach 1 billion people, the company will tap a variety of solutions, including wage digitization, digital wallets and apps, partnerships with mobile networks and more.
Mastercard said in April that it would commit $250 million in services and support over the next five years to help SMBs in the U.S.