My ultimate dream was to build them a house

Sep 29, 2021

Leveraging fintech solutions to help make dreams come true in emerging markets

“I was the breadwinner in my family. At a young age, my ultimate dream was to build them a house and fortunately, I was able to do that.”

This is the story of migrant worker Jemelline Lawan from Manila, Philippines. Just like Jemelline, millions of people worldwide make the hard decision to leave their home country and loved ones behind hoping to build a better life for themselves and their families. Jemelline has been living and working in Nagano, Japan for over 30 years now – her income helps support her family in the Philippines.

Remittances to the Philippines make up roughly 10% of the nation’s GDP. According to a survey conducted by BeamAndGo, an e-voucher payment service, over two-thirds of their customers send funds specifically to build or renovate their houses back home. As the leading supplier of building materials, Holcim identified an opportunity  to partner with fintech startups such as BeamAndGo and MyCash Online. These apps allow migrant workers to purchase cement vouchers from Holcim so that their family back home can build strong, resilient homes.

Jemelline adds: “As long as they are all healthy, especially my parents, and they are living comfortably, that’s enough for me. That makes me sleep at night.”

Adonis Quillope of Surigao del Norte, Philippines, who has now been working 12 years in Saudi Arabia, says:

“I told myself that I need to get them out of poverty. I don’t want us to just survive, but I want us to live comfortably. I went to Saudi with nothing but my skill, determination, and eagerness to reach my dreams. And that is to help my siblings finish college, provide my parents a better life, a home for them to live comfortably and some investment.”

Financial instability, social stigma and lack of transparency of money remitted are common issues facing migrant workers. Starting his career as a Bangladeshi migrant worker in Malaysia, Mehedi Hasan, co-founder and CEO of MyCash Online, has first-hand experience of these difficulties. For example, banks often reject low-income earners in opening accounts. On the other hand, many migrant workers do not trust the financial institutions based on previous bad experiences such as high bank fees and poor customer service due to their social status associated with being a migrant. What is worse, migrant workers have no ways of knowing what the money they send home is being used for.

“Cash sent back home for groceries, medicine, education or building a house, is often spent on alcohol, tobacco and gambling”, says Jonathan E. Chua, CEO of BeamAndGo. “Whoever has the cash has the power.”

Jonathan and Mehedi are not letting people’s years of hard work go to waste. BeamAndGo and MyCash Online empower the un- and underbanked population by responding to these challenges. Migrant workers who do not own a bank account or credit card can top up their remittance accounts by paying in cash at dedicated kiosks that these startups partner with. They receive a code, with which they can purchase goods and services directly on the app and hence budget their families spendings. This puts the power back in the hands of the migrant workers.

Adonis says: “Honestly, as a migrant worker, you cannot control how your family is spending your remittance.”

Jemelline adds: “Before I started using BeamAndGo, I used to remit my money in one go and most of the time, I was not sure how it was being spent. BeamAndGo is what every migrant worker needs.”

Holcim is proud to partner with innovative startups that empower Jemelline, Adonis and many others from the un- and underbanked population. Acknowledging the impact of Covid-19 on global poverty, Holcim is committed to democratizing technology by tapping into fintech solutions in emerging markets.

Going forward, we are expanding our partnerships with fintech startups to empower our retailers too. In Latin America, Middle East Africa and India we are partnering with startups that provide e-wallets and micro credit to increase the liquidity of our small and medium- and family-owned retailers to ensure their survival during the crisis and post crisis.

How MAQER supports countries

As many migrant workers share the same dream of building a better future for their loved ones, Holcim generally supports countries in identifying the right partner for their local setup as remittances and community needs differ from country to country and region to region. For countries this is a good opportunity to partner with the local retail business, and to help to channel the money to retail customers, especially across Disensa networks. MAQER provides support in structuring the initiative and developing a proof of concept together with the remittance platform and the local business team. Beamandgo or MyCashOnline are trusted platforms already used by thousands of migrant workers sending money back home which cannot be easily replicated. Additional countries currently working with MAQER on similar concepts are Mexico and El Salvador.

Author: Felicia Noreskar