Mobile Phone Banking to take off in Samoa

January 22, 2010

Commercial banks, microfinance institutions, telecos, civil society organizations, government officials and donor agencies in Samoa now have a better idea of what mobile banking can offer to the island nation.

This was made possible through an information exchange focusing on mobile phone banking and remittances that was organized by the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) in partnership with the Central Bank of Samoa (CBS).

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

The information exchange took place at the Central Bank of Samoa earlier this week and was attended by 53 representatives from a wide cross section of the financial services sector.
Accessing financial services over one’s mobile phone is often referred to as “m-money” and can allow users to make deposits, withdrawals and transfers directly from their mobile phones.

Leasi Scanlan, Governor of the Central Bank of Samoa, who officially opened the event stated that financial inclusion has the potential to play a very important role in Samoa’s economic development.

“The introduction of mobile banking in the domestic economy will be hugely beneficial. It will allow better financial access to our low-income community in the rural and isolated areas as well as to improve and speed up our payments system,” said Governor Scanlan.

He emphasised the Central Bank of Samoa’s new role as a champion of financial inclusion in Samoa.

The Central Bank of Samoa will be represented at a regional workshop in February, in Vanuatu to discuss how it can best formulate policies that are most supportive of inclusive finance initiatives like m-money in Samoa.

Tillman Bruett, PFIP Project Advisor and international expert on m-money, presented on the potential for m-money in Samoa.

“Mobile banking is very relevant to Samoa as it allows financial services to be offered to rural and low income people that previously had limited or no access to them. Mobile banking increases the level of financial inclusion in the country,” said Mr. Bruett.

“Mobile banking decreases the cost of financial services, and this is very important to Samoans who receive a large amount of income from international remittances,” he added.

The purpose of this informal information exchange was to help prepare Samoa for the imminent mobile money solutions that are expected to be introduced into the domestic market well before the end of the year.

The PFIP team will facilitate a total of five information exchanges in Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea in the coming months. The final information exchange is scheduled for Vanuatu at the end of February. The information exchanges begin with a short presentation on a topic of interest followed by some informal discussion on this topic as well as the promotion of financial inclusion in general with interested counterparts. Around July this year, the PFIP will announce a call for grant proposals from those with ideas on how financial inclusion in Samoa can be further improved.

For more information contact:
Shobhna Decloitre, Communications Associate, UNDP Pacific Centre on shobhna.decloitre@undp.org or 3300399 (ext207)