Project: Technology upgrade to enable pay-as-you-go (PAYG) Solar Energy loan payments.
Country: Papua New Guinea (PNG)
Partner: Nationwide Microbank Limited (trading as MiBank)
Date: July 2016 to Dec 2017
Grant: USD $105,000
Target: 2,150 households in first year
Current reach: N/A
This project is an opportunity to use digital payment channels to construct a solution to a significant and widespread need in PNG. It is felt that customers will adopt formal financial services if the solution offered to them solves a concrete and everyday problem and is easy to use, in this case by providing affordable, efficient electricity.
The vast majority (82%) of the PNG population is not connected to the country’s electricity grid and struggle with access to power sources. A 2014 IFC study estimated that there are more than 1.3 million off-grid households not currently using solar power, with only 2% of PNG households using solar power.
PFIP is supporting MiBank on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ (PAYG) solar energy kit loan at four pilot sites. PFIP support will enable MiBank to upgrade its payment processing systems capability so as to handle payments for solar power, and will assist in strengthening its agent training and financial education programme in the pilot areas.
This initiative is an innovation for the PNG market and has the potential to reach 100,000 rural households within a three year period. This solution has significant potential to increase the quality of life for a large number of people; women and children in particular. The solar installations will provide lighting that is superior and safer than the current kerosene option.
Besides enabling rural Papua New Guineans to access electricity in a convenient, cost effective-way, it is estimated that the project will have the potential to introduce 100,000 unbanked adults into the formal financial sector, boost their level of financial literacy and give them opportunities to access additional financial products.
This project is to test a new concept in PNG. The product is micro-leasing, as households will subscribe to obtain a solar energy kit and will pay off loans after 2 years. After that time they will own their solar kit and receive free electricity. MiBank will provide all solar energy customers with MiCash mobile wallets that are linked bank accounts.
MiCash wallets will enable customers to buy goods and services, process bill payments, obtain air-time top up, send money transfers, do balance checks, and deposit or withdraw cash at MiBank branches or MiCash agents. As solar energy customers will need to use their MiCash wallets to purchase vouchers for their solar kits, usage of MiCash wallets is driven by necessity, leading to familiarity with the MiCash interface and a smooth transition to usage of the wider suite of MiCash financial services.
Nationwide Microbank Limited, trading as MiBank, was granted a banking license in 2006, and today is arguably the largest microfinance institution in the South Pacific
In 2012 MiBank launched the first bank-led deployment of mobile money in the South Pacific. MiCash accounts are fully integrated with a bank account, with an ATM and EFTPOS debit card which can be accessed through the extensive Bank of South Pacific (BSP) electronic banking network through an interchange agreement with MiBank, hence providing additional access options to rural users.
 Enclude & IFC report, “ Lighting Papua New Guinea: PNG Off-Grid Lighting Market Analysis”, 2014