Yesterday marked the final disbursement to both mobile operators, Digicel and Voila, for having achieved the 5 million transactions milestone as set out by the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative (HMMI), which is a partnership between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Agency of International Development (USAID). The milestone is a testament to how fast the mobile money offering has been able to grow in just two years.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s partnership with the United States Agency of International Development (USAID) allotted nearly US$10 million dollars to the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative (HMMI) project with the goal of bringing basic financial services to the population of Haiti. This award brings Digicel’s mobile money service, TchoTcho Mobile’s total cash awards from the HMMI to US$5.2 million since the product launched in November 2010.

TchoTcho Mobile, the first mobile phone-based financial service to be launched in Haiti, has grown rapidly and today has over 900 agents serving more than 500,000 registered customers who have generated more than five million transactions to date.

Digicel continues to reinvest this prize money into growing and expanding its TchoTcho Mobile service with a view to bringing financial inclusion to the Haitian unbanked population and building on its goal of creating a cashless society.

On the back of its acquisition of Voila in April, Digicel will be merging its TchoTcho Mobile and Voila’s T-Cash teams. The merged team will be led by the newly appointed General Manager, David Sharpe, a Digicel veteran who has also worked at Voila and who has built up Digicel’s SMS service to be one that is widely used by its customers.

Commenting on this achievement for TchoTcho Mobile, Damian Blackburn, CEO of Digicel Haiti, said: “This is an award Digicel Haiti welcomes with great pride and enthusiasm because it recognises the incredible efforts of our team to build this service across Haiti. Two years after its launch, TchoTcho Mobile allows Haitians across the country to have access to simple, secure and convenient services using a mobile wallet and thereby significantly improves their economic activities.”

David Sharpe, General Manager of TchoTcho Mobile, said “Our recent developments with TchoTcho Mobile would not have been possible without the competition established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID. As a result, we are providing Haiti with one of the most innovative financial services offered on a mobile phone.”

With TchoTcho Mobile, Digicel has been able to achieve successes in social welfare and conditional cash transfer programs. This is illustrated by partnerships with CARE and Catholic Relief Service (CRS) who provide e-vouchers to beneficiaries as part of the “Food for Peace” initiative. It has also been used as a part of a reconstruction initiative with UNDP, allowing beneficiaries to redeem electronic vouchers at selected hardware stores in order to provide building materials to rebuild their homes that were destroyed by the January 2010 earthquake.

TchoTcho Mobile’s most recent partnership with the Government of Haiti aims to reach 100,000 mothers during its first six months of operation. The Ti Manman Cheri or “Dear Little Mother” program is the first conditional cash transfer program conceived in Haiti; the sole condition for qualification is for mothers to send their children to pre-defined schools in the most distressed areas of Port-au-Prince.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID have set extraordinary goals for Digicel and Voila to introduce such a revolutionary technology in Haiti and Digicel is looking forward to working with them as it continues to develop its mobile money services. The take up of such a product would have been much slower had it not been for this incentive which will benefit an entire country’s economy and improve the security of the population’s financial resources.

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