Albania has rarely—or probably never—made breaking news in the payments area, and truth be told there has not (yet) been a reasonable argument for the country’s payments initiatives to make the front page, but perhaps now it’s time for that to change.
One of the emerging economies of south-eastern Europe, aspiring to be part of the European Union, Albania struggles between growing its economy, absorbing the economic “aftershocks” of a deadly earthquake in November 2019 and more recently gathering all its limited forces to face the economic contractions due to a country-wide lockdown and safety measures to halt the spread of COVID-19.
Aside from the latest unfortunate events that will surely change priorities in many areas, the Bank of Albania (BoA) has been actively focused on a single and very important objective: financial inclusion of the unbanked.
Chasing excluded populations that don’t have access to financial services, which add up to around 60% of adult population, is considered to be crucial in addressing the heavily cash reliant economy in Albania and an important key to unlocking opportunities for development. This strategic objective has been gaining much more importance, especially nowadays in fragile economies and in the context of pandemic-driven uncertainties.
BUT WHAT DOES FINANCIAL EXCLUSION MEAN FOR ALBANIA?
Electronic payments in Albania have been growing steadily over recent years, but still lack large volumes of usage. Even though their usage is not yet being fully embraced, there’s been a gradual transition to trust in electronic payments over the last five years. And now, due to the pandemic, the last few months have seen a swift change in attitude that has contributed to a sharp increase in usage of such instruments.
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