In 2015, a significant milestone was achieved with PFIP assisting the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Government in joining the Better than Cash Alliance, making it the first Pacific Island Country to do so. This showed the government’s commitment to leveraging digital financial services to increase security, transparency and convenience, while reducing cost for its citizens. Through this action the government committed itself to eventually providing all its payments through electronic channels.
In December 2016, PFIP supported the Bank of PNG and Centre for Excellence in Financial Inclusion in developing the country’s National Financial Inclusion Strategic Plan 2016-2020. The overall target of the four-year plan was to reach two million more unbanked low-income Papua New Guineans, 50% of whom are women with a wide range of financial services that includes savings, loans, remittance services and insurance, by 2020.
From May 2015 – December 2017, through PFIP’s support, BIMA mobile micro insurance was able to provide life and health insurance policies to close to 800,000 Papua New Guineans, making it PFIP’s largest partner to date. PFIP grant helped BIMA expand outreach in the underdeveloped Highlands region, through reducing delivery costs, while improving customer service.
In July 2016, PFIP partnered with microfinance institution MiBank to pilot a ‘pay-as-you-go’ (PAYG) solar energy kit loan.This innovative product attempted to connect households not connected to the PNG electricity grid – 82% of the population are still ‘off-grid’. Households would take up the loan and agree to monthly payments over two years, after which they would own the solar kit and receive free electricity. Besides enabling them to access electricity in a convenient, cost effective-way, the project tried to include 100,000 unbanked Papua New Guineans into the formal financial sector, boost financial literacy and give them opportunities to access additional financial products. This project closed in December 2017 and was not able to reach the expected project targets.
PFIP is working with the PNG Government and Bank of PNG to develop a pilot for Financial Education (FinEd) integration into technical and vocational college curriculum. PFIP is testing a new model, working specifically with technical and vocational training institutions to produce labour market-ready graduates who are better equipped to deal with financial decision-making.
In March 2017, PFIP partnered with Westpac Banking Corporation to set up a Innovation lab in their Highlands region. The project employs human-centred design tools and experts to create services that inspire enthusiastic adoption and usage by Highlands’ dwellers, women, and smallholders in particular. An estimated 80% of the clients are expected to be engaged in agriculture activities for their livelihoods. The Westpac Innovation Hub created a instore banking product for low income earner called the Choice Wantok product that had no account opening fees and no banking fees.
To address distance and access issues, PFIP partnered with Women’s Micro Bank in July 2018 to set up six kiosk-type structures (Mama Access Points -MAPS) where women and rural customers could easily transact. The MAPs are equipped with a biometric enabled system that makes financial services more accessible for rural communities, especially for women who are WMBL’s main customers. This is the first of its kind in the Pacific and allows customers to transact with WMBL by using their fingerprint.
With less than 15 percent of PNG saving for old age, the majority of Papua New Guineans face a grim prospect of living in poverty when they are too old to work. In 2018, PFIP initiated a study examining the feasibility of expanding voluntary pension in PNG. New micro pension products maybe available in PNG in 2019.