What is the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative?
The Haiti Mobile Money Initiative (HMMI) is a program launched in June 2010 that is jumpstarting the delivery of financial services by mobile phone in Haiti. The program offers incentive funds—a total of $10 million—to entities that offer mobile money services in Haiti. These awards included the first and second service providers to launch mobile money services, and reaching specific transaction milestones.
HMMI is a partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
As part of the program, USAID offers technical and management assistance and other funding totaling approximately $5 million through the Haiti Integrated Finance for Value Chains and Enterprise (HIFIVE) project.
In support of HMMI objectives, HIFIVE has been working with a number of NGOs and private sector companies to develop grant and public-private partnerships to support the development of mobile money applications and solutions including:
- Yellow Pepper: National agent network development in conjunction with Digicel.
- Mercy Corps: Applying mobile money as a tool in humanitarian programs in conjunction with USAID Food for Peace programs and Voila.
- Transversal: Mobile Platform for Customer Acquisition and Agent Services in conjunction with World Vision, Univicity, and Digicel.
- Yellow Pepper 2: Expanding financial access through improved distribution analytics.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided $10 million in award funds and $4.7 million for related activities.
Which prizes have been awarded?
In January 2011, Digicel received the first award ($2.5 million) for launching a mobile money service in Haiti, TchoTcho Mobile. In August 2011, Voila received the next award ($1.5 million) for being the second mobile operator to launch a service.
In October 2011, the first scaling award of $100,000 was divided between Digicel and Voila for reaching the 100,000 transaction milestone. In June 2012, Digicel and Voila split the second $1 million award for reaching the 1 million transaction milestone. And in July 2012, Digicel and Voila split the final $3.2 million award for reaching the 5 million transaction milestone.
Both operators shared the prize money for reaching the transaction milestones based on each of the operators’ proportional contributions to the milestones. All the prizes were awarded after a detailed verification process was completed.
What progress has been made?
Since their launch in Haiti in 2010, TchoTcho Mobile of Digicel and T-Cash of Voila have grown rapidly. Haitians are beginning to use these services to address a variety of problems they face daily in making payments, sending and receiving funds and managing their money. The expanding network of agents for mobile money services will offer greater convenience to Haitians, bringing access to safe, convenient, financial services closer to their front doors. TchoTcho Mobile and T-Cash have spread throughout the country, with a network of agents that increased from 200 in December 2010 to 2,270 in January 2012.
How can mobile money transform Haiti?
Before the earthquake, only around 10 percent of Haitians used traditional banks.
Mobile money services can dramatically broaden access to banking services. Enabling Haitians to send, receive and store money using their mobile phones has the potential to dramatically improve their lives and leapfrog more conventional banking models to more convenient and affordable alternatives.
The destruction of more than one-third of the country’s bank branches and ATMs in the January 2010 earthquake meant severe cash shortages for Haitians. In the short term, mobile money services have contributed to Haiti's recovery by helping families and friends, humanitarian agencies, charities and donors get aid money and remittances into the hands of Haitians.
In the long term, mobile money could help millions of Haitians improve their lives through easy access to savings accounts and other financial services. HMMI is laying the foundation for financial services that could be an important component to help Haitians lift themselves out of extreme poverty.
The effectiveness of mobile money offerings has been demonstrated by a similar service in Kenya, M-PESA. Just three years after its launch, M-PESA has more than 13 million customers, is used by more than 70 percent of Kenya’s households, and does more transfers per year domestically than Western Union, the money transfer company, does globally. Research shows that Kenyan households who have access to M-PESA are better able to manage negative income shocks such as job loss, harvest or business.
Last updated: December 07, 2012