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Haiti’s mobile money

Haiti, December 20, 2010

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Sabri Ben-Achour

PRI's The World
December, 2010

In a small church near St Marc, a small, elderly woman taps intently on a cell phone. With just a few strokes, Lydia Paul receives 60 gourdes — that’s about $1.50. But it didn’t go to her bank account — she doesn’t have one, and she can’t afford one. It went to her phone. The phone is a bank account. You don’t write checks, you send text messages. This is mobile money.

Haiti isn’t known as a leader in finance or technology. But some of the country’s poorest residents are leading the way to new system of cell phone-based banking.

Kokoévi Sossouvi is in charge of economic recovery for the aid group, Mercy Corps, which is operating in Haiti. Sossouvi has been crisscrossing the countryside, from one packed town meeting to another, explaining how the cell phone banking works.

“We’re trying to give people access to financial services, so they can save money, have a safe way to store their hard earned cash, so they can make transactions,” Sossouvi said.