Pacific Central Banks Hear Fiji’s Experience in Mobile Money Transfer

August 6, 2010

Representatives from six central banks had the opportunity to quiz Vodafone and Digicel about their new money transfer systems at a recent regional meeting held in Nadi.

Senior officials of the Bank of Papua New Guinea, the Central Banks of the Solomon Islands and Samoa, the Reserve Banks of Fiji and Vanuatu and the Banking and Payments Authority of Timor-Leste spent the day learning about the two mobile money transfer systems recently introduced in Fiji.

Both operators, Vodafone and Digicel, noted that their initial interest in providing money transfer services was the need to manage the cash handling of their top up agents around the country.

Dinesh Shankar of Digicel noted how the Pacific Microfinance Week in July 2010 had been a pivotal moment in their decision to move forward with Mobile Money. “We saw there was a great need and a great demand for this kind of service. This is a good product because it is fast. Soon you won’t have to stand in line to withdraw cash or come into town to pay your utility bills,” he noted.

The operators also noted the benefits to small business. Shailendra Prasad of Vodafone commented, “for M-PAiSA we recognize the importance of the agent network. People aren’t going to use the system if there are no agents to provide the service.” He commented on how their revenue sharing model greatly favored agents and these agents were small business people around the country. “Vodafone gets very little from the fees charged to withdraw money at an agent. Most of it goes into the local economy, the pockets of our agents.”

Central bankers quizzed both operators on their training of agents, fee schedules and how they worked with the Reserve Bank of Fiji to ensure they were complying with the necessary rules and regulations.

Nickson Kunjil of the Bank of Papua New Guinea found the one-day session with the Vodafone and Digicelinformative. “This is a good chance for us to prepare for the introduction of mobile money in our country. We have one mobile money pilot being conducted in PNG now and this helps us understand better how to evaluate it and future services. ”

Peter Tari of the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu commented, “This workshop was a wonderful opportunity to hear about the experience of central bankers in the Pacific, and learn more about the mobile money platforms recently unveiled here in Fiji. I am excited to take this information back to Vanuatu and share it with my colleagues as we consider the possibility of launching mobile money in our own country.”

The Reserve Bank of Fiji played host to the meeting, which was facilitated by the experts from the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP). Support for the workshop was given by the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP). The three day workshop finished on Thursday.