Following the huge success of M-Pesa in Kenya, Vodafone has begun piloting its mobile money transfer service in the Pacific nation of Fiji. M-Pesa launched in Kenya in 2007 and now has over seven million subscribers in the country. It has since been introduced in Afghanistan, Tanzania and, most recently, South Africa.
Vodafone has now moved to enter the Pacific, claiming to be the first company in the area to introduce a payment service that enables customers to complete simple financial transactions over a mobile phone.
M-PAiSA Mobile Money Transfer Service allow registered users to temporarily store and transfer money cheaply and safely. Vodafone clients will be able to deposit and withdraw cash with approved Vodafone agents in Fiji, send money directly onto others mobile phones, buy recharge or airtime and also receive money from overseas directly onto their Vodafone mobiles.
The M-PAiSA service offers many services similar to a bank. The main difference is that M-PAiSA is not using customers’ money to make loans or invest. It only facilitates money movement. The pilot involves Vodafone staff and their immediate families and a select group of individuals who will get a chance to trial the system for the next few weeks when the service is expected to be launched nationally.
Mr. Shailendra Prasad, Manager Corporate Affairs and Product Manager for M-PAiSA commented “We are trendsetters in our region—the first in the Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand, and one of only a handful in the world that offer a mobile money transfer service. The whole solution was designed in-house and is cutting edge service.”
Mobile phone based money transfer services is the “next big thing” in the mobile phone industry. The Vodafone Fiji M-PAiSA service was inspired by the M-Pesa, launched in early 2007 in Kenya by Safaricom in partnership with Vodafone Group Plc. M-Pesa in Kenya now has over seven million subscribers. Mobile money transfer services are proving to be major contributor to making banking and financial service more affordable and accessible to low income and rural families.
In Fiji, because of the geographic spread and lack of economies of scale, providing banking and financial services to the rural sector has always been a challenge. Without banking services, economic activity in the remote rural areas has been limited to subsistence levels.
This pilot project received financial and technical support from the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) which helps to bring sustainable financial services to unbanked Pacific islanders. “This is an important step in bringing access to safe and affordable financial services to the estimated 50% of Fijian households that are unbanked,” commented Tillman Bruett, the Technical Advisor of PFIP. “We are supportive of a number of branchless banking initiatives in the Pacific and congratulate Vodafone Fiji on this piloting this service.”
Both Vodafone Fiji and PFIP acknowledged the support and guidance provided by the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF). Central banks around the world are grappling with the challenges of regulating new mobile phone based financial services. The RBF has been studying other systems and regulatory approaches and has worked closely with Vodafone Fiji to ensure the new system is safe and affordable, and meets international standards related to combating money laundering and the financing terrorism. Mr. Bruett noted that other central banks in the region are watching the RBF and this pilot to determine how to address pending launches in their countries.
Vodafone Fiji Limited is part of Vodafone Group Plc, a leading mobile communications company with over 280 million proportionate customers worldwide. Vodafone Fiji which is a partnership with Amalgamated Telecom Holding Fiji provides mobile telecommunications services to over 650,000 Fiji customers. The global company has equity interests in 26 countries and partner networks in a further 33 countries, the largest global footprint.
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