Mobile Money in Haiti

Problem

USAID and the Gates Foundation were offering $10 million in prize money to incentivize businesses to develop mobile money services in Haiti. How would Haitian consumers respond to mobile money? How could mobile money services serve consumers better?

Objective

This project aimed to show how Haitians were uptaking mobile money in the early days of deployment. We demonstrated likely future possibilities and limitations of mobile money services.

Approach

Our team undertook ethnographic research in Haiti in two phases:

  • Before the launch of mobile money (6 months prior): We investigated how Haitians were sending money, how they were using mobile phones, and attitudes to money
  • After the launch of mobile money (0-6 months after): We interviewed Haitians about mobile money use, tested mobile money services at a variety of locations, and interviewed key stakeholders (mobile money service providers, NGOs, and government officials)

Outcomes

Our research indicated that Haitians were uptaking mobile money at a reasonable rate, but not necessarily in predictable ways. Rather than using mobile money to send remittances around the country, many people were using it to store their own money (Me2Me) for security reasons.

A second sizeable group were only using mobile money services to receive money from NGOs (conditional cash payments and cash-for-work) and then withdrawing the money. However, considering that mobile money had existed for less than six months, these practices were not necessarily indicative of a likely adoption rate or use practices.

To investigate the possible future of mobile money services, we interviewed Haitians about their attitudes and analyzed broader market characteristics (economy, competition, regulations, stimulation, infrastructure, technology).

We found that Haitians had a high level of trust in mobile money operators, and were highly positive about mobile money’s benefits (especially saving them time and cost). We concluded that on the demand side there were no particular barriers to mobile money’s success.

Problems with mobile money were more on the demand side. The agent network was not wide enough. Many stores offering mobile money services (top-up and withdrawal) were not reliable. Marketing was insufficient. Haitian regulatory bodies were conservative, and initially set very low wallet sizes, thus limiting transactions to tiny sums of money.

We reported that if these demand side problems could be overcome, mobile money in Haiti had a bright future. We map out this possible future in our report, “Mobile Money in Haiti: Potentials and Challenges.”

More information

Canela Consulting design and implement mobile money projects:

  • Qualitative resarch into consumers' use of mobile money
  • Assessment of mobile money's social benefits and limitations at the national level
  • Advice and capacitation for NGOs and other institutions setting up mobile money programs
  • Program implementation
  • Program evaluation

Client

HIFIVE Haiti (USAID) / IMTFI

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