Haitian wireless operator Voila, a subsidiary of Seattle-based Trilogy International Partners, and Unibank, Haiti's premier Haitian Bank, are pleased to announce they have received all the requisite regulatory approvals to launch Haiti's first mobile money service, under the commercial name "T-CASH."
With full regulatory approval, and having completed a successful nine month pilot program with international relief and development agency Mercy Corps, Voila and Unibank are well positioned to expand the benefits of mobile money to other NGO's and the larger Haitian population safely, securely and efficiently.
Voila and Unibank received final approval in the form of a letter of non-objection received today from the Banque de la Republique d'Haiti (BRH), Haiti's central bank. Voila received a similar letter earlier in the month from the nation's telecommunications regulator, Conseil National des Telecommunications (CONATEL), clearing the path to enable Haitians to use their Voila phones as 'mobile wallets'.
"The introduction of mobile money solutions in Haiti represents a significant milestone in Haiti's recovery and growth efforts," said Charles Castel, Haiti's Central Bank governor. "We applaud the initiative of the Bank-MNO consortiums to leverage the innovative use of wireless technology to provide access to basic financial services to the disenfranchised people of Haiti. It is a sine qua non for sensible growth and development. That being said, the cost of these electronic transactions will make or break mobile banking. I invite the players to focus on volume so to harness this big opportunity for a more efficient payments system and a more inclusive financial system," Castel said.
The first phase of Voila's and Unibank's mobile money service, called "T-CASH" or telephonecash, will bolster critical humanitarian assistance by expanding the mobile money pilot projects that Voila and Unibank launched early this year in concert with Mercy Corps. Over the next nine months, approximately 100,000 Haitians in the impoverished Central Plateau and lower Artibonite regions will benefit from Mercy Corps' cash programs, using T-CASH service to receive and make payments. Beneficiaries will now be able to use these electronic funds to purchase food and non-food itemssnd non-food items including shelter material from a network of affiliated merchants throughout the provinces, using their Voila phones.
"As money comes in for reconstruction efforts, relief organizations need access to the most efficient methods of distribution possible to minimize the cost of providing needed services and programs," said Robin Padberg, CEO of Voila. "Historically up to 40 cents of every dollar was spent on logistics and security associated with moving cash. With Voila and Unibank's mobile money solution, this can be reduced to just a few cents. With T-CASH, Voila continues our tradition of providing quality, innovative mobile solutions by giving millions of unbanked Haitians access to a full range of financial services via their mobile phone."
In early 2011, Voila and Unibank plan to expand T-CASH beyond NGOs to individual customers throughout the country with a full suite of e-wallet services, including domestic peer-to-peer money transfer, bill pay, top up services, and expanded mobile commerce capabilities with a goal to establish hundreds of affiliated merchants and cash in/cash out locations throughout the country over the next several months.
"Unibank is proud to participate with its technological partner, Voila, in the launch of the first electronic wallet service in Haiti," said F. Carl Braun, Chairman of Unibank. "In doing so, Unibank perpetuates it's tradition of technological leadership in the financial sector. The T-CASH service will be critical for the extension of banking services beyond traditional branches and the inclusion of the non-banked population particularly in rural areas. With the electronic wallet, financial services will be instantly available throughout the country," Braun said.
The T-CASH platform is available to relief organizations throughout the country.