Papua New Guinea's Nationwide Microbank has signed up its 100,000th customer.
This highlights the ongoing demand for quality and accessible banking services in the country.
The landmark bank account was opened by Tommie Seriate, a 49-year-old widow and mother of four from the Unggai Bena District of the Eastern Highlands Province.
"I am so happy and glad that I made the right decision to open an account with Nationwide Microbank," said Ms Seriate. "They made it so simple to open a savings account."
To make a living, Ms Seriate operates a small coffee garden in a remote part of the Eastern Highlands Province, some two hours by road north of Goroka, the provincial capital. She had previously tried to open a bank account with two commercial banks without success.
Although no official data exists, ADB estimates that only 15% of the PNG population has access to formal or informal banking facilities, lower still in rural parts of the country. This means that small firms are unable to get the finance they need to expand and individuals are unable to either borrow to meet their financial needs or securely save their earnings.
"Nationwide Microbank continues its efforts to ensure that the people of Papua New Guinea have access to relevant and affordable financial services," said Tony Westaway, Nationwide Microbank's Managing Director. "We are ‘banking the un-banked', an achievement that would not have been possible without the ongoing support from the Asian Development Bank and the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme."
In order to further expand its reach into rural areas and make its services even more accessible to clients, Nationwide Microbank is developing a "branchless" banking strategy, with support from PFIP and ADB, which will offer financial services through the use of mobile phones and other wireless technology. The aim is to enable clients to use their bank accounts without needing to travel to a bank branch, a journey that can be both costly and time-consuming from remote parts of the country.
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