Telecom Vanuatu Limited has announced that it will be piloting a new mobile money platform. Provisionally named ‘M-Vatu, the services leverage the expertise and lessons from the roll out of TVL’s parent ATH groups, Vodafone Fiji’s mobile money platform M-PAiSA.
The mobile money platform will allow registered users to use their mobile phone like a bank account or debit card.
The real money resides in a conventional mobile money account and can use this for accessing banking services such as remittances, savings, paying utility bills, airtime top up and so forth.
TVL and Vodafone Fiji will be researching, using human centered design techniques to interact with customers and developing the platform to offer customer value and experience to ensure effective uptake and usage especially for rural customers and women over 12-18 months,.
M-Vatu will be available in select locations of Port Vila, Malekula, Santo, Tanna in the first 12 to 18 months and thereafter will be scaled to other parts of Vanuatu.
TVL Marketing Officer Palash Bhowmik said,“This financial service will bring new opportunities for customers and improve the daily financial lives of Ni-Vanuatu.”
“M-Vatu will thus be a solution for the people of Vanuatu enabling greater access to financial services for the underserved population, reduce cost of accessing the financial services and close the gap between the unbanked and the banked,” he said.
He added that with TVL mobile network covering greater part of the population, they expect that through the life of the project, 20,000 new customers will be able to access this new service.
“For all M-Vatu users they will given a unique password to protect their financial information on their phones if they happen to lose their phones and only they can access this but we are working on our software development so the system is secured as much as possible,” he said.
“The project has been successful in Fiji to date with no security breach and we are 100 per cent sure that Vanuatu will do likewise.”
The Deputy Governor of Reserve Bank of Vanuatu, Peter Tari appreciated the i initiative taken by TVL in bringing a much awaited and needed financial service to Vanuatu.
“For the thousands of rural ni-Vanuatu, access to affordable and appropriate financial service is often not there or too costly,” he said.
“However, an increasing number of them are using mobile phones and therefore when these services are offered through such digital channels, it bridges the gap and offers an easy way of financial access. The initiative also aligns well with our National Financial inclusion strategy goals-I compliment both TVL and PFIP for this historic partnership.”
The project is supported by the United Nations PAcific Financial Inclusion Program through funding from the Australian Government and the Government of New Zealand. PFIP will provide technical assistance to coordinate the design and testing of the product and services aimed to create the active user base around M-Vatu services. Employees of TVL will also be supported by technical specialist from Vodafone Fiji.
PFIP Deputy Program Manager, Krishnan Narasimhan said the partnership was 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 and further expanded similar products in the region,” he said.
“Current opportunities include expansion in Cook Islands, Kiribati, American Samoa and W.Samoa, where subsidies of ATH are currently operating telecommunication and mobile services.”
He added the partnerships like this that draws on the best practices and learnings from other Pacific countries was important PFIP.
The existing PFIP supported Vodafone Fiji Innovation Lab will provide its expertise and bring to TVL the learning experiences of successful implementation.
The project aligns to strategic goals set out in Vanuatu’s NFIS 2018-2023, it 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 and further between financial service providers and mobile network operators.
In 2016, RBV and the PFIP completed a ‘Financial Services Demand Side Survey 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 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.