Fiji on Target to Reach Unbanked Population

September 9, 2011

Fiji is on track to reach its target of banking 150,000 people who do not have bank accounts. To date, 34% of the 150,000 targeted, that is, more than 50,000 people in the last year have since acquired access to basic financial services making it easier to save and access their money.

In November of 2009, the National Financial Inclusion Taskforce (NFIT) enthusiastically set a vision of reaching 150,000 of the unbanked population by 2014. Following its inception, the 150,000 target is being achieved with more and more Fijians enjoying basic financial services and products on offer via microfinance and commercial banks, mobile money wallets and insurance products. NFIT is an initiative of the Reserve Bank of Fiji and Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme, which brought stakeholders together in 2009 to develop a medium term strategy for financial inclusion in Fiji. In the Pacific, Fiji is also taking the lead to improve the financial inclusion of its rural population.

Financial inclusion means enabling the greater population, especially low income and rural households to have access to a wide range of financial services provided by different institutions in a cost effective manner. As explained by Governor Barry Whiteside, “Financial inclusion is not about giving handouts to anyone, it’s about getting the people to help themselves.”

“The important thing is people are being empowered and are creating economic activity, that’s how it leads to economic development. Microfinance and financial inclusion empowers and enables people to go into business and in doing so they are addressing some of the development goals,” states, Filimone Waqabaca, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance.

PFIP in collaboration with the Taskforce have set up a number of innovative projects in Fiji which is gaining rapid success and global recognition. These include mobile money projects with Vodafone’s MPAiSA and Digicel Mobile Money Fiji, FinEd Fiji project, seeking to introduce financial education into both the primary and secondary school curriculum from class 1 to form 6. And more recently, saving the Department of Social Welfare $FJ280,000 annually, through a partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Westpac to transfer social welfare clients from a voucher based system to electronic payment.

These successes have been highlighted in a video documentary titled “Financial Inclusion in Fiji: A Evolving Story”, jointly produced by the RBF and PFIP. The video was launched by David Morrison, Executive Secretary of the UN Capital Development Fund and Barry Whiteside, RBF Governor yesterday at the Reserve Bank.

Upon meeting the stakeholders of the National Financial Inclusion Taskforce, Mr. David Morrison expressed, “Thetaskforce must be commended for the great results achieved in such a short time. I am impressed and the results and achievement accomplished so far is testament of the great coordination role the NFIT plays in achieving financial inclusion in Fiji. The UN Capital Development Fund is interested in replicating Fiji’s approach to other parts of the globe,”

PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme helping provide sustainable financial services to low income households. It is funded by the Australian Agency for International Development, UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), European Union and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and operates from the UNDP Pacific Centre.