Digicel Pacific and Auckland tech startup KlickEx have joined forces to offer international money transfers to a mobile wallet for the first time in the Pacific Islands.
The Mobile Money service enables people in New Zealand to send money direct to any Digicel mobile phone in Tonga, Fiji and Samoa for a flat fee of $3.
Recipients don't need to have a bank account and the digital wallet can be used to buy goods, pay bills, buy or send Digicel Top Up credit.
"It’s a very exciting product for merchants," Digicel Pacific chief executive Vanessa Slowey said. "In the past they were selling commodities ... Now they’re actually going to be cash out agents."
Purchases and cash withdrawals can be made at more than 300 participating stores and service agents throughout the Pacific Islands.
Digicel customers in Samoa, Tonga and Fiji have already been using mobile wallets for domestic transactions. The service will initially launch in the three markets with plans underway to expand the offering to all Digicel Pacific countries.
“Thanks to our extensive Pacific network, established retail footprint and proud track record of reducing the cost of mobile services, Digicel is uniquely positioned to offer a real alternative to the traditional bricks and mortar-based remittance models. With some money transfer operators charging up to 20 percent per transaction, our aim is to make mobile money services available and accessible to all."
The system bypasses banks using KickEx's online currency exchange platform and complements ongoing initiatives to introduce competition and lower remittance fees by the New Zealand government as well as AusAid, the World Bank and the Pacific Financial Inclusion Fund.
Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme spokesman Tillman Bruett said international remittances were a major source of financial security for households across the Pacific and a major contributor to economic activity in many countries.
"Making remittances cheaper, more convenient and faster will make a big difference in the lives of Pacific Islanders."
Digicel launched mobile services in the region in Samoa in 2006 and now operates in Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Nauru and Papua New Guinea with more than two million Pacific Island customers.
"We came to the region about five years ago at a time when mobile penetration in the Pacific Islands was one of the lowest in the world," Slowey said.
Since then, she said mobile penetration had gone from about 12,000 to hundreds of thousands, with 95 percent population coverage.