Telecommunications: Cash a text away
  • January 11, 2012

When Taito of Nailega village in the heart of rural Wainibuka in Fiji wants to send his earnings from Australia, he no longer has to worry about his wife’s long trip down the King’s Highway to the nearest urban centre—Rakiraki or Suva—to collect the cash.

He fills out the necessary forms at the nearest Lotus Agency where he works in Melbourne and hands over the cash to the Lotus staff, who then use a web portal to facilitate the sending of money from that branch to the recipient’s mobile phone in Fiji.

Companies are eyeing new developments that will help consumers and large entities with large volume to transfer money faster, more effectively and more securely across countries and continents. And in Fiji sending money from New Zealand and Australia is now only a text away, thanks to Vodafone, Lotus Foreign Exchange, United Nations Capital Development Fund, Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme and the facilitation of the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

Now anyone in Australia and New Zealand can send money to a registered M-PAiSA number in Fiji.

“In many ways, remittances are one of the world’s greatest financial security system, particularly for rural areas,” said David Morrison, Executive Secretary, UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). “The problem that UNCDF wishes to solve is the cost of remittances which is often expensive. In the Pacific, the average cost of sending $200 is close to 20% and that doesn’t include the cost of getting into town to pick up your funds.” Morrison congratulated Vodafone Fiji for bringing more convenient and safe remittances to Fiji. “This is a great example of two local companies working together to find ways to improve the lives of people.”

To celebrate this event, locals and guests gathered at Vunidawa, the provincial centre of Naitasiri, to witness Fiji’s first international remittance transaction via mobile phone.

Naitasiri rugby player, Apisalome Ratuniyarawa who now plays for Poverty Bay in the New Zealand remitted F$500 from Lotus Foreign Exchange Queen Street Branch in Auckland to K Bainivalu Store in Vunidawa.

Money transfers: easier, convenient

The recipients of these funds, Vunidawa Indian School and Vunidawa District School, were delighted when Vodafone Fiji topped up this contribution, with both schools receiving F$1000 each.

Chairman of the National Financial Inclusion Taskforce and board member of Vodafone Fiji, Robin Yarrow, said the International Money Transfer through M-PAiSA would make receipt of money transfers easier, more convenient and more cost effective. He said it was clear the government was committed to taking financial services to more people in the rural areas—particularly those who had been denied access to regular banking and financial services in the past.

“Former Fiji residents including soldiers in peacekeeping missions and sports personalities regularly send money home to their relatives and families,” Yarrow said. “However, for those in the rural areas, this can mean travelling to towns or cities to collect the cash—a practice which can take considerable time and also costly. With M-PAiSA, this transfer becomes an almost instantaneous service with cash available right here in the village at an M-PAiSA agent."

“The savings in time of cost as a result of this new service can be put into productive use to improve both the economic and social well-being of our rural dwellers. Easier and more regular transactions also mean the money changes hands more often and through the multiplier effect can generate greater economic activities.”

Mobile phones are increasingly seen as a widely accessible delivery channel and a medium to provide a range of services beyond just data and voice calls.

“Therefore, subscribers are looking to their service providers for more value added services that provide greater and more convenient access to essential services through their mobile phones. In return for the value added services, a mobile operator seeks to achieve a more satisfied customer that is loyal to the network, which in turn reduces reacquisition costs.”

Pacific Financial Inclusion Project’s Regional Financial Capacity Advisor Jeff Liew said in June that PFIP’s support for domestic money transfers has shown that the mobile phone technology provides a very cost effective way of transferring money. He said PFIP had been looking at both ends of the equation of remittance and the advantage of a mobile phone system was that they could receive the money from their phone instead of travelling far to the nearest urban centre.