Visa’s Shared Value Initiative
The Dominican Republic is a small, densely populated country with a large, impoverished population dependent on
welfare benefits. Because many eligible recipients are unbanked, the government previously distributed benefits
manually. Food was often provided to ineligible people, leaving many who should have received food empty-handed.
The problem was further compounded by a severe recession in the Dominican Republic in 2003.
In 2004, the Dominican Administradora de Subsidios Sociales (ADESS) partnered with Visa and four financial institutions to launch the Solidaridad prepaid card to beneficiaries of the Comer es Primero (“Eat First”) subsidy. Since then, Visa has helped install more than 4,500 terminals at participating corner stores and local merchants, so they can accept and process grocery transactions using the cards. The card can only be used at participating merchant locations and funds cannot be withdrawn at ATMs. With the success of this payment system, ADESS added the Incentivo a la Asistencia Escolar (“School Attendance Incentive”) to provide grants that encourage attendance among school-aged children.
With the Visa prepaid card programme, the Dominican Republic can now track and control benefits distribution to ensure it helps those most in need while reducing subsidy distribution costs. Because this system has proven to be easy and effective, the Dominican Republic now uses the Visa Solidaridad card to disburse funds for ten different social subsidies including support to low-income university students, fuel, gas and electricity subsidies. According to the ADESS, as of February 2014, over US$1.6 billion has been distributed to over 1 million beneficiaries on Visa Solidaridad cards.
Shared Value for Business and Society
The value of electronic payment is increasingly recognised, while the untapped potential among the population without access to banking and financial services is still huge. Other than providing electronic payment services, Visa has developed financial literacy programmes targeting different regions, which have reached out to over 33 million people in more than 40 countries around the world and helped them better understand and manage their finances. Through partnering with local governments to facilitate the delivery of aid payments and providing financial literacy tools, Visa not only provided local people with efficient access to goods of necessities and fostered financial inclusion, but also gained access to new markets and retained loyal customers of its future business, which demonstrates what a financial services provider could do to deliver Shared Value to both the community and the company.
“I can go to the store and they swipe the card . . . the whole process is very easy for me. I am able to buy my milk, oatmeal, sugar, rice, oil, pasta . . . I am way better than before.”
— Maria Alta Gracia Reyes Alberria, Solidaridad Card User