Haiti Continues Shift to Mobile Money

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Above: the launch of the “Ti Manman Cheri” initiative (FP)

By the Caribbean Journal staff

Haiti is continuing its drive to use mobile phones to bridge the banking gap.

A mobile money initiative funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has now reached five million transactions, the organization announced.

The milestone means mobile operators Digicel and Viola will share a $3.2 million award from the initiative for reaching that number.

It is the final award in a $10 million incentive fund initiated by the organization in 2010. The project is a partnership between the Gates Foundation and USAID.

“The Haiti Mobile Money Initiative has successfully contributed to spurring the launch of mobile money, and this progress is a significant accomplishment, given the challenges faced on the ground in Haiti,” said Rodger Voorhies, director of Financial Services for the Poor at the Gates Foundation.

The plan seeks to address those challenges as a way of helping Haitians make payments, send and receive funds by using their mobile phones.

While two-thirds of Haiti’s population has access to mobile phones, just 10 percent of Haitians have bank accounts, according to the United Nations.

In May, Haiti’s government launched another mobile money plan, called “Ti Manman Cheri,” or “Dear Little Mother,” which is being funded by PetroCaribe.

That initiative looks to reach families with young children living in extreme poverty.

Mobile money transfer technology has also been used as part of a Digicel-United Nations Development Programme initiative used to help buy materials for home construction.

United States Ambassador Kenneth Merten said Haiti was “at the mobile money development forefront” in the region.

“The government of Haiti’s dynamism in the use of information communications and technology allows us to believe in the sustainability of mobile financial services,” he said. “Mobile financial services can contribute to the development of various key sectors such as agriculture, microfinance or commerce.”

Over the next two years, the plan will focus on making mobile money services sustainable, through expanded uptake in services and an increase in active users.

 

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