October 11, 2018
Port Vila, Vanuatu – Yesterday Telecom Vanuatu Limited (TVL) announced the pilot of its new mobile money platform.
Provisionally named ‘M-Vatu’, the service uses Vodafone Fiji’s mobile money platform M-PAiSA. Since Vodafone Fiji is owned by TVLs parent company ATH group, it allows TVL to learn from the expertise and lessons from their Fijian counterparts. The mobile money platform allows registered users to use their mobile phone like a bank account or debit card. The new service can be used to access banking services such as sending and receiving money, savings, paying utility bills, airtime top-ups etc.
Over the next 12 – 18 months TVL, together with Vodafone Fiji will interact with its customers to develop and enhance the platform to improve the customer experience, especially for rural customers and women.
During the pilot period M-Vatu, will be available in select locations: Port Vila, Malekula, Santo, Tanna and thereafter it will be made available in other parts of Vanuatu.
TVL’s Chief Executive Officer Divik Deo said, “This financial service will bring new opportunities to improve the daily financial lives of the ni-Vanuatu.”
“M-Vatu will enable greater access to financial services for our underserved population, reduce cost of accessing financial services and close the gap between the unbanked and the banked.” he said.
He added that with TVL’s mobile network covering a greater part of the population, they expect that through the life of the pilot, at least 20,000 new customers will be able to access this new service.
The Deputy Governor of Reserve Bank of Vanuatu, Peter Tari, applauded the initiative taken by TVL for bringing the much awaited and needed digital financial service to Vanuatu. He said that “for the thousands of rural Ni-Vanuatu, access to affordable and appropriate financial service is often not available or too costly. However, an increasing number of them are using mobile phones and therefore when these services are offered through digital channels, it bridges the gap and offers an easy way of financial access.”
The project is supported by the United Nation’s Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme through funding from the Governments of Australia and New Zealand. PFIP will provide technical assistance to coordinate the design and testing of the product and services aimed to create an active user base around M-Vatu services. Employees of TVL will also be supported by technical specialists from Vodafone Fiji.
PFIP Deputy Programme Manager, Krishnan Narasimhan who travelled to Vanuatu to witness the announcement said the partnership was as a step in the right direction towards increased financial inclusion in the Pacific.
“With Amalgamated Telecommunication Holdings (ATH) being the parent company and majority shareholder in both Vodafone Fiji and TVL, PFIP has identified an opportunity to develop synergies to expand similar products in the region with Vanuatu being at the forefront. Other opportunities include expansion in Cook Islands, Kiribati, American Samoa and Western Samoa, where subsidiaries of ATH are currently operating telecommunication and mobile services,” he said.
He added that partnerships such as this, using best practices and learnings from other Pacific Island Countries is important to PFIP. Vodafone Fiji’s Innovation Lab, that was also established with support from PFIP, will provide its expertise and bring to TVL the learning experiences of its successful implementation of M-PAiSA in Fiji.
The project also aligns to strategic goals set out in the Vanuatu National Financial Inclusion Strategy 2018 – 2023. The strategy encourages the development of financial products and services including digital financial services that suit the needs of the excluded population, as well as implementation of electronic payment platforms between formal financial service providers such as banks, financial service providers and mobile network operators.
In 2016, the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu and PFIP completed a ‘Financial Services Demand Side Survey (DSS) Vanuatu’ report which includes information on the current state of financial access and usage in Vanuatu. The report found that although majority of adults in Vanuatu earn income from agriculture, agricultural income earners are most likely to be unbanked, 31% report having a bank account and another 31% are considered financially excluded without any access to financial products or services.
This project aims to address some of the existing barriers of uptake and usage of financial services in Vanuatu.
PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme that has helped over two million low-income Pacific Islanders gain access to financial services and financial education. It achieves these results by funding innovation with financial services and delivery channels, supporting policy and regulatory initiatives, and empowering consumers.
PFIP operates from the UNDP Pacific Office in Suva, Fiji and has offices in Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Solomon Islands. It is jointly administered by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and receives funding from the Governments of Australian and New Zealand and the European Union.