A first-of-its-kind training workshop on Digital Financial Services (DFS) for senior officials from commercial banks and mobile network operators (MNOs) in the Pacific region will be hosted by the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) in the Solomon Islands early next week.
Internationally renowned Kenya-based Helix Institute of Digital Finance will be running the five day training called the Core Agent Network Accelerator (CANA). This flagship course is aimed at providing participants with the right tools and inputs to build and manage robust agency channels for their digital finance business.
The workshop will be held from February 1st to 5th at the Heritage Park Hotel, Honiara, Solomon Islands and will be attended by 25 participants from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Almost half of the participants are women.
The United National Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the Helix Institute held negotiations which resulted in the training being offered in the Pacific for the first time. This has allowed PFIP to increase the number of participants it has been able to sponsor to the programme this year. Last year, PFIP supported 14 participants to the same course that was held in Manila, Philippines.
DFS, including mobile and branchless banking, is a new, technology driven initiative launched by commercial banks and MNOs in the last few years and is seen as a driver of financial inclusion in the Pacific region.
With several significant challenges including remote geographical locations, poor infrastructure, low population density, high cost of operations, low financial literacy etc., the Pacific region is one of the most unbanked in the world and digital channels are seen as a sustainable alternative for improving access and usage of financial services especially by poor and low income households.
Banks and MNOs are now increasingly improving their presence in remote rural areas through their authorized agents and merchant points where customer interface and financial transactions are facilitated. Managing the agency channel is key to the success of the digital finance business models and the CANA training is offered with a view to build the capacities of the banks and MNOs.
Participants who will be attending this workshop represent the leading commercial banks in the region including ANZ Bank, Bank South Pacific (BSP), HFC Bank, Pan Oceanic Bank (POB) and Westpac Bank and leading telecom service providers Digicel and Vodafone. The organizations named above are PFIP partners and grant recipients who offer mobile wallets or digital banking services in the Pacific region.
The workshop was officially opened by Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Solomon Islands Mr. Gane Simbe.
PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme helping low-income households gain access to quality and affordable financial services and financial education. It is jointly managed by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and receives funding from the Australian Government, the European Union and the New Zealand Government.
PFIP aims to add one million Pacific Islanders to the formal financial sector by 2019 by spearheading policy and regulatory initiatives, facilitating access to appropriate financial services and delivery channels and by strengthening financial competencies and consumer empowerment.
PFIP operates from the UNDP Pacific Centre in Suva, Fiji and has offices in Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Solomon Islands.