In a report published recently, Mastercard examines the barriers to financial inclusion in emerging markets and identifies ways forward to enable broader electronic payments acceptance. Payment facilitators are well positioned to help drive this effort.

The report, “Building Electronic Payment Acceptance at the Base of the Pyramid to Advance Financial Inclusion,” describes the enabling of digital payments for merchants as a critical part of bringing more people in developing markets into the formal financial system.

This is important, the company said, to enable individuals to safely give and receive money and cushion themselves against conditions that might affect their futures with savings and investments.

Progress has been made getting mechanisms for conducting financial business into consumers’ hands, Mastercard notes. The company cites GSMA data saying that more than 400 million mobile money accounts have been opened worldwide.

But making sure that consumers have access to financial services is only one part of the picture. Only one third of those accounts are active, the report said.

The report argues that enabling payments acceptance among merchants that consumers interact with on a day-to-day basis will help encourage greater usage of the tools available to them.

Mastercard cites a number of roadblocks on this path: the cost of accepting electronic payments, the risk payments providers face when onboarding merchants, challenges associated with distributing payment solutions to a population of micro and small merchants, and friction inherent in the existing system.

These are challenges the payment facilitator model is well poised to address. Indeed, it is one of the solutions the company acknowledges in the report.

It points out the need to adjust system rules to allow and even encourage the engagement of new partners such as payment facilitators who have stepped in to help distribute payment acceptance solutions.

“Payments networks have played a positive role in promoting the entrance of new players into the ecosystems in a manner that does not introduce additional risk. For example, new rules have been introduced to leverage the low-cost onboarding and servicing capabilities of payment facilitators,” the report said.

The report also describes payment facilitators as “an extremely cost-effective and expedient approach to enrolling, underwriting, and managing smaller merchants.”

In a recent conversation with about the role of QR codes in emerging markets, Mastercard’s executive vice president, Global Acceptance and Solutions, James Hicks, also highlighted PFs’ ability to work closely with those smaller merchants.

In particular, he shared the importance of payment facilitators in supporting merchants with little to no experience in electronic payments.

“That’s where some of that local expertise and the innovation comes in,” Hicks said, “where payment facilitators can be a bit more nimble and look at different opportunities and say, ‘this is a solution I think can really take off in this particular area of the marketplace by packaging up the payment side and the technology-enabling side’.”