Following the huge success of M-Pesa in Kenya (MPW 142, 143), Vodafone has begun piloting its mobile money transfer service in the Pacific nation of Fiji.
M-Pesa launched in Kenya in 2007 and now has over 7 million subscribers in the country. It has since been introduced in Afghanistan (MPW 137), Tanzania (MPW 134) and, most recently, South Africa (MPW 143).
Vodafone has now moved to enter the Pacific, claiming to be the first company in the area to introduce a payment service that enables customers to complete simple financial transactions over a mobile phone.
The service, called M-PAiSA, allows registered users to deposit and withdraw cash with approved Vodafone agents, send money directly to other mobile phones, buy recharge or airtime and receive money from overseas directly onto handsets.
It is initially being piloted by Vodafone staff and their immediate families as well as a few others, ahead of an expected national roll-out within weeks.
Fiji is made up of around 800 islands – over 100 of which are inhabited – and Vodafone says that the country’s geographic spread and lack of economies of scale means that providing banking and financial services to people in rural areas has proved difficult, leaving economic activity at subsistence levels.
According to the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme, which has provided financial and technical support for the pilot, around 50% of Fijian households are unbanked. Shailendra Prasad, manager, corporate affairs and product manager for M-PAiSA, says: “We are trendsetters in our region-the first in the Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand, and one of only a handful in the world that offer a mobile money transfer service.”