Timor Leste’s First Mobile Money Pilot Launched to Expand Access to Financial Services
  • December 04, 2014

BNU, in partnership with Timor Telecom, and with support from the Inclusive Finance for the Under-Served Economy (INFUSE) Programme and MicroSave, launched Timor-Leste’s first mobile wallet product called BNU Mobile.

Nearly 60 percent of Timor-Leste’s population have no bank accounts and only have limited options for safely saving money.

BNU’s mobile wallet product can be used by people with or without a bank account. BNU also launched a pilot test of the mobile money services yesterday, that will be available in four districts, Dili, Baucau, Ermera and Lautem. BNU Mobile customers can make payments, transfer money, do mobile top-up, withdraw cash and buy goods through a mobile wallet linked to their bank accounts. The mobile wallet allows them to get account information and make transactions using their phone anytime, anywhere. They can also send money to unbanked customers with a Timor Telecom phone number.

Those without a bank account can use BNU Mobile to receive money from a BNU customer and cash out at a designated mobile money agent, or make a person-to-person funds transfer. Anyone who does not own a bank account and receives money from a BNU customer will have to register for a mobile wallet before making transactions.

Customers can use up to $300 in a single transaction per day, with a daily accumulated transfer limit of $400. The maximum balance that can be held on a mobile wallet is $1000.

Once customers sign up for the service, they will receive $3 of pulsa (airtime) and afterwards, for each top up bought through BNU Mobile, customers will get 100% bonus on airtime from Timor Telecom.

The CEO of BNU, Fernando Torrao Alves, believes that many East Timorese will now have greater access to financial services without having to move to the traditional brick and mortar bank branches.

“The launch of the mobile money pilot, BNU Mobile aims to increase financial inclusion in Timor-Leste. After three months of planning we are now ready to start the pilot and will be cooperating with a substantial network of agents and other stakeholders. This is a very exciting project which will initiate a serious move into branchless banking. ’’

The Central Bank of Timor-Leste authorised BNU to start the pilot in September.

CEO of Timor Telecom, Manuel Capitão Amaro added that BNU Mobile will be an important instrument that will advance the development of Timor-Leste’s economy.

“We are very excited to partner with BNU for this pilot. Most of the population would never have access to a bank account or financial services, but with BNU Mobile, they will be able to buy, pay and transfer money in a convenient and low cost way. The service represents a major step forward in the development of the financial sector because Timorese people will be able to overcome the logistical challenges faced with traditional banking. ”

Programme Manager of INFUSE, Sonum Puri affirms that a severe lack of access to formal financial services but growing mobile penetration rates and increased network coverage have given way to opportunities in mobile money as a means to bank the unbanked. “The mobile money pilot is an important milestone which will set the precedent for future branchless banking services in Timor-Leste.”

INFUSE was launched in 2008 by the Government of Timor-Leste, the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with funding support from the Australian Government. INFUSE has long advocated the use of mobile phones to distribute financial services, which has proven successful in many markets across Africa, Asia and the Pacific to promote financial inclusion and improve service delivery.