MasterCard has extended its financial inclusion initiative to Rwanda through an agreement with the country's government to move away from the use of cash.

The global card brand and Rwanda's government are hoping to include 90% of the country's citizens in a financial program.

The country's Vision 2020 strategy and collaboration with MasterCard address digital payments for school fees and national health care claims; providing an online payment gateway for Rwanda Online; contributing to the creation of a common mobile banking platform; and contributing to the effective management of spending activities across borders.

“Our global reach and local experience makes MasterCard a perfect partner to help Rwanda meet its Vision 2020 strategy," said Raghu Malhotra, MasterCard's president of Middle East and Africa, in a May 12 press release.

Rwanda is a key market in East Africa for MasterCard and the collaboration "marks an important milestone in driving financial inclusion, not just in the country but in the region and Africa as a whole,” Malhotra added.

In Rwanda, only 42% of adults own a formal or informal financial account, according to a recent World Bank study.

Vision 2020 aims for 70% financial inclusion by 2017 and 90% by 2020. Building on MasterCard's approach to develop partnerships with governments, non-governmental organizations and local businesses, the card brand and Rwandan government say they will address common challenges faced by poor, and often remote, populations such as the lack of formal identification and financial illiteracy.

MasterCard has been aggressive in the financial inclusion arena with its own projects as well as working with the Financial Inclusion 2020 initiative through the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion since 2013. MasterCard is also active in entering new markets such as China, India and Myanmar. MasterCard has used prepaid accounts and digital technology for years to quickly expand in regions that lack traditional banking infrastructure.

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