The United Nations’ Pacific Financial Inclusion Practice (PFIP) and Vodafone Fiji announced a partnership today whereby Vodafone will offer free remittances into Fiji on the M-PAiSA platform for the next two months. The new initiative aims to support Fijians experiencing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as Tropical Cyclone Harold.
The combination of COVID-19 and Tropical Cyclone Harold has dramatically disrupted Fiji’s economy, an economy where remittances represent the second-largest source of foreign reserve. With many families relying on remittances from their family members living abroad to cover household expenses such as food, medical bills and housing costs, the importance of remittances has become that much more critical.
For that reason, Vodafone will waive all fees from May 14, 2020 until July 13, 2020 for both domestic and international remittances that are made using the M-PAiSA payment platform. This initiative builds on the longstanding Innovation Lab partnership between Vodafone and PFIP, a programme jointly administered by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Innovation Lab was set up to design, test and validate financial services for low-income Fijians through the M-PAiSA platform.
PFIP’s Programme Manager, Bram Peters commented “We have seen from early reports from the World Bank and other organizations on the global impact of COVID-19 that it has a significant impact on the volume and frequency of remittances. But if we look at it from a Fijian perspective, with the impact of Tropical Cyclone Harold on top of COVID-19, many Fijian families are hit with a double whammy and they need this source of income more than ever before.”
The Regional CEO of Vodafone, Mr Pradeep Lal, spoke about Vodafone’s hope that the initiative will have a positive impact; “At this time when many are facing financial difficulties due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the financial security of families is a major concern. From experience, we have seen that in times of need former Fijians living abroad stand up to support their families back home. By making it free to receive money from overseas and to send and receive money free of charge locally through M-PAiSA, we are making it easier and quicker for affected families to get financial support from their loved ones.
At this time, when the effect of COVID-19 on many sectors of the economy has been further compounded by TC Harold, remittances are a lifeline for many Fijians. Vodafone, being a local company, has stood by its people in good and bad times and are pleased to provide this additional help to our customers during these difficult times.”
The importance of remittances for the Pacific is also receiving international attention. The Government of Australia recently committed to protecting seasonal workers from the Pacific during the COVID-19 crisis; extending their visas, offering guidance on how to protect themselves, and giving pastoral care. Australia’s Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud explained this decision in a recent statement saying “the flow of remittances back to Pacific communities makes an important contribution to their ability to withstand the economic impacts of COVID-19.”
The Reserve Bank of Fiji also applauded this initiative. RBF Governor Ariff Ali said, “This will help in much needed foreign currency during this difficult economic environment to sustain our balance of payments and foreign reserves.”
Money can be sent to M-PAiSA from overseas for free through the World Remit online platform, RIA Money (available in 94 countries) and Thunes.
More information can be found on the Vodafone website www.vodafone.com.fj or by contacting Vodafone’s Customer Service at 124 or 123.
PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme that has helped over two million Pacific islanders gain access to financial services and financial education. It achieves these results by funding innovation with financial services and delivery channels, supports policy and regulatory initiatives, and the empowerment of consumers.
It is jointly administered by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and receives funding from the Australian Government, the European Union and the New Zealand Government.