July 11, 2012
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded $3.2 million to two Haitian mobile network operators for their work in establishing mobile money services. Digicel and Voilà will share the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative award because they met the program requirements and then reached the milestone of handling 5 million transactions.
The award announced Tuesday is the final one in a $10 million incentive fund that the Seattle-based Gates Foundation started in June 2010. The USAID partnership with the foundation was designed to help deploy mobile money services after the January 2010 earthquake devastated Haiti.
Mobile services were not the most obvious need in a country wracked with post-quake homelessness, unsanitary conditions and widespread cholera. But foundation officials saw mobile money as one way they could make an impact in a region that’s filled with various relief workers.
A massive proportion of Haiti’s banks were destroyed, and many Haitians had no means to receive the financial assistance that family and others abroad wanted to extend. They also had limited security with any money they did receive — a problem mobile banking seeks to solve.
The mobile banking access allows Haitians to make payments, send and receive funds, and manage their money.
Digicel partners with Scotia Bank to offer users access to TchoTcho Mobile banking. Voilà partners with Unibank to offer consumers access to the T-Cash system. Both have grown rapidly since 2010.
“In the region, Haiti is at the mobile money development forefront,” said Kenneth Merten, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti in a statement. “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. Mobile financial services can contribute to the development of various key sectors such as agriculture, microfinance or commerce.”
Previously, the Haitian Mobile Money Initiative awarded a $2.5 million First to Market Award to Digicel and a $1.5 million Second to Market Award to Voilà. The project also granted $100,000 and $1 million awards to be shared by the two providers.
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