$1.5 Million Awarded by USAID and Gates Foundation for Second Haiti Mobile Money Launch

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The Haiti based mobile operator Voilà will receive a $1.5 million incentive award from the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative (HMMI). The announcement was made by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The award is given to Voilà as it is the second mobile operator to launch a mobile money service in Haiti, T-Cash, and for meeting stringent criteria laid down by the award program. HMMI is a $10 million fund, organized to introduce mobile money to the people of Haiti. This is the second award allocated from HMMI.

Voilà has been instrumental in the initiation of mobile money in Haiti. With the help of this mobile money service, people can now use their mobile phones to make deposits and withdrawals at retail outlets; they can also transfer money between T-Cash accounts. In future, it also proposes to offer bill payments, payment for government services and international remittance-transfers.

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“Voilà is proud to accept the $1.5 million dollar prize awarded by the Gates Foundation and USAID.  Voilà is committed to building on the success of T-Cash and we appreciate their support.  From the start, Voilà set out to build a mobile money platform that is comprehensive, scalable and, above all, easy to use.   We’re encouraged to see how well Haitians are embracing T-Cash to improve their everyday lives,  fueled in large part by our unique and innovative ‘mini wallet’  feature which enables customers to immediately activate the service from their Voilà phone.  Extending financial services to a broader base of the Haitian population will not only dramatically accelerate the Haitian reconstruction effort but the nation’s economic development in general.” said, Mr. Robin Padberg, CEO of Voilà.

The First to Market Award was given to Digicel by HMMI, in January 2011. digicel was recognized for providing mobile money service Tcho Tcho Mobile. Voilà and Digicel have gained recognition for their outstanding efforts to introduce mobile money services to Haiti, which has benefitted the Haitians, by providing them with comfortable and economical financial services.

Haiti witnessed a major setback when one-third of its bank branches and ATMs were destroyed in earthquake in January 2010. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID collaborated to form the HMMI, in June 2010 to help launch mobile money services in Haiti that aimed to help the people of Haiti to send, receive and store money, with the help of mobile phone services.  It also plays a major role in banking services to alleviate poverty in Haiti.

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USAID Haiti Mission Director, Dr. Carleene Dei, said, “The destruction of many financial institutions, banks and microfinance units has put pressure on an already limited financial sector which was serving only 10 percent of the population in mostly urban areas. This has heightened the need to create quick and innovative tools to offer financial services to underserved and out of reach populations.  As we continue reconstruction in Haiti, these mobile money services will contribute to our ongoing, long-term commitment toward building a better Haiti.”

M-PESA, in Kenya, is a service similar to T-Cash from Voilà and Tcho Tcho Mobile from Digicel. It has proven to be extremely helpful, a fact that is evident as it has more than 13 million customers, and more than 70 percent of Kenya’s households make use of this service. Research has proved that M-PESA users are able to handle setbacks like job loss, harvest or business failure, or poor health far better than those who don’t use the service.

“As we have seen in other places around the world, mobile money can unlock the economic potential for millions of people. Making mobile money services available to the poorest families in the developing world can be a first step to introducing a broader range of financial services, which can help them build financial security and productive lives.”,” said Mr. Roger Voohiers, director of the Financial Services for the Poor initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Another $6 million in Scaling Awards are also offered, along with the First and Second to Market Awards. The scaling awards at the 100, 000, 1 million and 5 million transaction benchmarks will be divided among those companies that contributed to the total market size.

Greta K. Greathouse, chief of party of HIFIVE, said, “The launch of mobile money services in Haiti in such a short period of time in such a challenging environment is the result of extraordinary efforts from all the parties involved — mobile network operators, financial institutions, and Haitian regulatory institutions. We will need their continued collaboration so that mobile money can realize its full potential in Haiti, serving more Haitians, with more products that respond to their needs. We greatly appreciate the spirit this competition has inspired to bring a mobile banking revolution to Haiti.”