Thursday 14 May, 2020
The United Nations’ Pacific Financial Inclusion Program (PFIP) and Vodafone Fiji, today announced a partnership where Vodafone M-PAiSA will offer free remittances into Fiji on the M-PAiSA platform for the next two months with the support of WorldRemit, RIA Money and Thunes. The new initiative aims to support Fijians experiencing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as Tropical Cyclone Harold to receive financial support from families locally and abroad without paying any fee.
The combination of COVID-19 and Tropical Cyclone Harold has dramatically disrupted Fiji’s economy, an economy where remittances represent the second largest source of foreign reserve. With many families relying on remittances from their family members living abroad to cover household expenses such as food, medical bills and housing costs, the importance of remittances has become that much more critical.
For that reason Vodafone, with the support of its global money transfer partners, will waive all fees from15th May, 2020 until 14th July 2020 for both domestic and international remittances that are made using the M-PAiSA payment platform. This initiative builds on the longstanding Innovation Lab partnership between Vodafone and PFIP, a programme jointly administered by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Innovation Lab was set up to design, test and validate financial services for low-income Fijians through the M-PAiSA platform.
PFIP’s Programme Manager, Bram Peters commented “We have seen from early reports from the World Bank and other organizations on the global impact of COVID-19 that it has a significant impact on the volume and frequency of remittances. But if we look at it from a Fijian perspective, with the impact of Tropical Cyclone Harold on top of COVID-19, many Fijian families are hit with a double whammy and they need this source of income more than ever before.”
The Regional CEO of Vodafone, Mr. Pradeep Lal, spoke about their hopes of a positive impact of this initiative “At this time when many are facing financial difficulties due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the financial security of families is a major concern. From experience we have seen that in times of need former Fijians living abroad stand up to support their families back home. By making it free to receive money from overseas through our loyal partners and to send and receive money free of charge locally through M-PAiSA, we are making it easier and quicker for affected families to get financial support from their loved ones.
At this time, when many sectors of the economy are affected by COVID-19 which has been further compounded by TC Harold, remittance is lifeline for many Fijians. Vodafone, being a local company, has stood by its people in good and bad times and are pleased to provide this additional help to our customers during these difficult times.”
The importance of remittances for the Pacific is also receiving international attention. The Government of Australia recently committed to protecting seasonal workers from the Pacific during the COVID-19 crisis; extending their visas, offering guidance on how to protect themselves, and giving pastoral care. Australia’s Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud explained this decision in a recent statement saying “the flow of remittances back to Pacific communities makes an important contribution to their ability to withstand the economic impacts of COVID-19.”
The Reserve Bank of Fiji has also applauded this initiative by Vodafone Fiji, PFIP and its partners. RBF Governor Ariff Ali said “This will help in much needed foreign currency during this difficult economic environment to sustain our balance of payments and foreign reserves.” Scott Eddington, Managing Director of APAC for WorldRemit commented, “It is a great source of pride for us to be able to support this initiative during these times. We know how important remittances can be for Fijians, and for communities across the world, and we are pleased to offer this fully digital service, with our partners Vodafone Fiji.”
The free money transfer service from overseas to M-PAiSA is available through leading international money transfer service WorldRemit on its global online platform covering countries of Australia, New Zealand, USA, and UK. The markets will be enabled for zero fee sending from tomorrow 15th May with the Canada coming online next week. Free sending over the counter service through walk-in outlets of RIA Money Transfer will be available in 94 countries from tonight. The online platform for Thunes will also be enabled for free transfer of money to M-PAiSA from later tonight Vodafone Fiji has already enabled sending money locally via M-PAiSA at no fee.
More information can be found on the Vodafone website www.vodafone.com.fj or customers can contact
Vodafone’s Customer Service at 124 or 123.
PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme that has helped over two million Pacific islanders gain access to financial services and financial education. It achieves these results by funding innovation with financial services and delivery channels, supports policy and regulatory initiatives, and the empowerment of consumers. It is jointly administered by the UN 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.