MASERU – Within three weeks of launching its Unayo banking platform, Standard Lesotho Bank has set up 60 merchants and received 2 000 individual applicants to use this new innovative platform that allows one to use it even if they don’t have a bank account. Unayo is a platform that caters for all users – those who give services and those who receive.
The Standard Lesotho Bank Head of Platform Business, Bright Pita, told Public Eye in an exclusive interview that this platform is for business owners and individuals thus the expectation is to have 100 merchants by the end of the month. “We believe that there is an important role played by business owners to consumers and consumers have needs from businesses. That is why we start by launching services that are of essential need like sending money,” Pita explained. He added that accessing money in rural areas is difficult and people rely on cash based activities.
Pita made an example of a challenge posed by need and access of banks and ATMs that sometimes the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) will want to pay people they work with in rural areas, but the means of redeeming their cash remains a challenge. He then emphasised that for one to use Unayo they do not need to have a bank account with Standard Lesotho Bank or any another bank. As a result, he noted that Unayo is focused on reaching the financial excluded people who don’t have bank accounts for various reasons including that they cannot afford banking costs.
Pita went on to say: “27 percent of Basotho above 18 years are excluded from the financial services and most are living in the rural areas. Some of the common factors that lead to some people’s exclusion are because they don’t have a stable income and they have to travel long distances to get cash.” He continued to explain that to cut the travel and costs, the bank came up with this innovative platform to move services to the people who need it most. Pita said another population that Unayo is targeting are those that are classified as under banked.
“Judging by the number of people who queue on ATMs every month end there is an indication that many people are desperate to withdraw cash and are able to use it their areas. That is with Unayo we bring redemption points closer to where people live,” Pita said. To become an Unayo merchant, Pita said one has to have the traders’ licence, tax clearance and financials. He further noted that within these three weeks of launch, Unayo has been established at filling stations and shops across the country.
Asked if this new mode will not impact on the revenue collected from the ATMs, Pita said: “Not at all, because the people we are aiming to attract are those that are non-banked. The formally banked market will still continue to use the ATMs.” He then explained that there are three modes of accessing cash with Unayo which are to register to become a user, through a voucher which one will need to redeem from the ATM or any Unayo merchant and the third one is that if one is a registered user their money will be loaded into their account.
Unayo is a low-cost, one-stop platform that the SLB says can be used as a vehicle for growing businesses, giving easier access to markets and making transacting more convenient. It is aimed at providing economic growth for the community and ultimately making individual and collective dreams real. The platform allows people to make transactions with ease by just using a mobile phone. Unayo is available in other countries where the SLB operates such as Botswana, Malawi, eSwatini and now Lesotho.