The Nepalese rupee is the official currency in Kathmandu and Pokhara, but in some rural areas, firewood is a preferred form of exchange. What would you do if the nearest bank is a hike across the mountains? Firewood may be more practical than it sounds, similar to gold elsewhere. One reason is that it is difficult to steal; another is that it retains value over time. The message here may be the size of the global unbanked population. While the number is much higher in Nepal, the World Bank estimates that 38% of adults worldwide do not use formal financial services. That spotlights the opportunity for some fintech ventures—assuming local internet access—and emphasizes why mobile phone-based banking apps are reshaping the developing world.

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