WASHINGTON – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on Tuesday that two of Haiti’s mobile network operators, Digicel and Voilà, will share a $3.2 million award from the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative (HMMI) for reaching the 5 million transaction milestone and meeting the award program’s requirements.
This is the final award in the $10 million incentive fund, initiated in June 2010 in a partnership between the Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The fund was created to encourage the rapid deployment of mobile money services in Haiti following the devastating January 2010 earthquake.
Ambassador Kenneth Merten, who presented the first award in June 2010, reiterated the U.S. government’s commitment to supporting innovative solutions to promote financial inclusion and economic development in Haiti.
“In the region, Haiti is at the mobile money development forefront,” Merten said, according to a USAID news release. “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,” Merten said. “All components of Haitian society are ready for the economic takeoff.”
Digicel’s TchoTcho Mobile and Voilà’s T-Cash, along with their bank partners, Scotia Bank and Unibank, respectively, have grown rapidly since their launch in Haiti in 2010. Haitians are beginning to use these services to address a variety of problems they face daily in making payments, sending and receiving funds and managing their money.
The expanding network of agents for mobile money services will give Haitians access to safe, convenient financial services closer to their front doors.
“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, the Gates Foundation’s director of financial services for the poor. “In the next phase of the project, we will focus on supporting the financial services industry to develop an active and growing customer base, with the ultimate goal of helping the people in Haiti build financial security and better lives.”
Specifically, over the next two years, HMMI activities will focus on helping mobile money services achieve sustainability via an expansion in services and an increase in the number of active users. It will partner with others to address the remaining challenges in key areas, including customer education, agent and merchant network expansion and product development. Technical assistance, grants and market research are among the tools it will use to pursue these objectives.
Previous HMMI awards included a $2.5 million First to Market Award (Digicel); a $1.5 million Second to Market Award (Voilà); and $100,000 and $1 million Scaling Awards (shared by Digicel and Voilà).
HMMI is funded by $10 million in awards, plus additional funds for related activities from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as $5 million in technical and management assistance from USAID. It is managed and implemented by the Haiti Integrated Finance for Value Chains and Enterprises (HIFIVE), a USAID-funded project. HIFIVE offers technical and management assistance to a variety of institutions working to improve access to financial services in Haiti.