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Gates Foundation and USAID Announce $1.5 Million Award for Second Haiti Mobile Money Launch

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United States Agency for International Development
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

 

Mobile Operator Voilà becomes second recipient of mobile money fund in Haiti

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced today that Haitian mobile operator Voilà will receive a $1.5 million incentive award from the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative (HMMI). Voilà is recognized for being the second to launch a mobile money service in Haiti, T-Cash, and meeting the award program’s stringent criteria. This award is the second from HMMI, a $10 million fund to jumpstart the introduction of mobile money for the Haitian people.

Voilà’s mobile money service enables customers to use their mobile phones to make deposits and withdrawals at retail outlets, and transfer money between T-Cash accounts. In addition to its current services, other mobile banking services will eventually include bill payments, payment for government services and international remittance-transfers

Mr. Robin Padberg, CEO of Voilà declared that: "Voilà is proud to accept the $1.5 million dollar prize awarded by the Gates Foundation and USAID.  Voilà is committed to building on the success of T-Cash and we appreciate their support.  From the start, Voilà set out to build a mobile money platform that is comprehensive, scalable and, above all, easy to use.   We're encouraged to see how well Haitians are embracing T-Cash to improve their everyday lives,  fueled in large part by our unique and innovative 'mini wallet'  feature which enables customers to immediately activate the service from their Voilà phone.  Extending financial services to a broader base of the Haitian population will not only dramatically accelerate the Haitian reconstruction effort but the nation's economic development in general." 

In January 2011, HMMI’s First to Market Award was given to Digicel for its mobile money service Tcho Tcho Mobile.  The efforts of both Voilà and Digicel to introduce mobile money services to Haiti represent a major jump forward in making access to affordable and convenient financial services available to Haiti’s people.

The devastating earthquake in January 2010 destroyed one-third of Haiti’s bank branches and ATMs, making it even more difficult for Haitians to access the financial system and receive cash. The HMMI, a partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID, was established in June 2010 to help launch mobile money services in Haiti and enable Haitians to send, receive and store money using their mobile phones. It also lays the foundation for banking services that could help millions of Haitians lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

“The destruction of many financial institutions, banks and microfinance units has put pressure on an already limited financial sector which was serving only 10 percent of the population in mostly urban areas,” said USAID Haiti Mission Director, Dr. Carleene Dei. “This has heightened the need to create quick and innovative tools to offer financial services to underserved and out of reach populations.  As we continue reconstruction in Haiti, these mobile money services will contribute to our ongoing, long-term commitment toward building a better Haiti.”

The effectiveness of mobile money offerings like T-Cash from Voilà and Tcho Tcho Mobile from Digicel has been demonstrated by a similar service in Kenya and Tanzania, M-PESA. Just three years after its launch, M-PESA has more than 13 million customers, is used by more than 70 percent of Kenya’s households, and does more transfers per year domestically than Western Union, the money transfer company, does globally. Research shows that Kenyan households who have access to M-PESA are better able to manage negative income shocks such as job loss, harvest or business failure, or poor health than households who don’t have access to M-PESA.

 “As we have seen in other places around the world, mobile money can unlock the economic potential for millions of people,” said Mr. Roger Voohiers, director of the Financial Services for the Poor initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Making mobile money services available to the poorest families in the developing world can be a first step to introducing a broader range of financial services, which can help them build financial security and productive lives.”

HMMI offers prizes to mobile money service providers to encourage a rapid deployment of these services with ubiquitous availability throughout the country, and it provides technical assistance grants to support solutions that will help meet the criteria of the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative. It is implemented by Haiti Integrated Finance for Value Chains and Enterprise (HIFIVE), a USAID-funded project that also offers technical and management assistance to improve financial access for the underserved.

In addition to the First and Second to Market Awards, another $6 million in Scaling Awards are available, as transaction benchmarks are met. The scaling awards at the 100,000,1 million and 5 million transaction benchmarks will be  divided proportionately  among those companies that contributed to the total market size.

“The launch of mobile money services in Haiti in such a short period of time in such a challenging environment is the result of extraordinary efforts from all the parties involved -- mobile network operators, financial institutions, and Haitian regulatory institutions,” said Greta K. Greathouse, chief of party of HIFIVE. “We will need their continued collaboration so that mobile money can realize its full potential in Haiti, serving more Haitians, with more products that respond to their needs. We greatly appreciate the spirit this competition has inspired to bring a mobile banking revolution to Haiti.”

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Editor’s Note
For information about the incentive fund criteria, contact info@hifive.org.ht.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Learn more at www.gatesfoundation.org or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Email: media@gatesfoundation.org
Phone: +1.206.709.3400

U.S. Agency for International Development
Through the U.S. Agency for International Development, the American people have provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for nearly 50 years. For more information about USAID's programs, please visit: www.usaid.gov. 
Email: usaidpressofficers@usaid.gov
Phone: +1.202.712.4320

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