Mastercard: Empowering MSMEs in the Caribbean

by Dalton Fowles,

Country Manager for Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados & Eastern Caribbean at Mastercard

Financial inclusion goes far beyond connecting people to bank accounts. It is a powerful tool that allows them to exercise greater control over their expenses and income. It makes it possible for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to access credit to grow their businesses, as well as to enjoy the benefits of the digital economy, including platforms to sell their products online and to receive digital payments safely, quickly, and conveniently. 

The importance of this cannot be understated. According to the most recent Mastercard and Americas Market Intelligence (AMI) study, The State of Financial Inclusion Post-COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 21 per cent of Latin Americans, or approximately 91 million consumers, still don’t have access to basic financial products.

The good news, nonetheless, is that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the advance of digital life in Latin America and the Caribbean, placing us between three to five years ahead of the expected curve. Mastercard’s research shows that 77 per cent of Latin American consumers have used electronic payments, with debit cards being the most used digital payment method (55 per cent and 41 per cent for in-store and online purchases, respectively).

A similar trend is taking over the Caribbean. In Jamaica, for instance, Mastercard’s most recent Consumer Payments Behavior Report shows that 93 per cent of Jamaicans surveyed feel comfortable or very comfortable when trying new technology, and 51 per cent of those surveyed already use debit cards for their daily purchases. 

For our consumers in the Caribbean, flexibility is a priority, security is a must, and digital is an expectation.

To respond to these changing preferences, further digital transformation and foster financial inclusion, Mastercard is working with MSMEs across the Caribbean; recognising the key role they play as engines of economic growth and prosperity in our communities.

Our strategy for them revolves around four core pillars:

Innovation: We are working closely with financial institutions, Fintechs and governments to design and enable innovative financial solutions, such as contactless and Tap on Phone, that allow MSMEs to receive payments quickly, conveniently, and securely, thereby enhancing their operational efficiency.

Trust: We have developed and are implementing advanced cybersecurity solutions to safeguard MSMEs against potential cyber risks, ensuring the integrity of their digital interactions. Mastercard’s Trust Center, for instance, allows them to acquire the basic knowledge they need to stay safe online. Through these efforts, we are encouraging a sense of trust in digital payment methods, making sure MSME owners never again have to choose between convenience and safety. 

Inclusion: We are leveraging our expertise and network to facilitate access to credit and growth opportunities for underserved segments, including women entrepreneurs.  

Efficiency: Mastercard offers MSMEs access to Easy Savings Specials, a robust global redemption programme designed to empower them by providing access to exclusive digital merchant offers. With over 100 tailored deals, the programme aims to streamline operational and administrative processes, saving businesses valuable time and resources, while maximising efficiency on digital platforms.

We have also partnered with local institutions and NGOs to develop educational platforms that allow MSME owners to acquire the knowledge, resources, and support they require to digitise and grow their businesses. Mastercard’s Entrepreneur’s Odyssey, for instance, offers MSMEs access to expert knowledge on various facets of digitalisation, from inception to community building. MicroMentor, on the other hand, connects them with mentors globally who share best practices and encourage MSMEs to reach new heights. 

Mastercard will remain at the forefront of this new era through partnerships with businesses, governments, and other organisations who, like Mastercard, are determined to use technology to break down all remaining barriers and allow every Caribbean citizen to thrive in the digital age.

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