New Electronic Wallet Technology Benefiting PNG Women

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‘Micash’ system works like debit card on a mobile phone

By Jemima Garrett

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Nov. 21, 2013) – Women in Papua New Guinea are now able shake off predatory fee collectors and keep their market takings safe thanks to a new electronic wallet.

PNG's Nationwide Microbank has won the Innovative Company of the Year award from PNG Institute of Directors for its new Micash system.

The electronic wallet, which works via mobile phone - either your own or one owned by the microbank's agent - can do anything a bank account or a debit card would usually do.

The Nationwide Microbank's managing director Tony Westaway, who was speaking at a two-day Branchless Banking conference in Sydney, says women at Port Moresby's Gerehu market were facing a number of problems.

In the past, money paid by women to operate in the marketplace would not reach the city authority.

"They weren't receiving the payments, so therefore they weren't able to re-invest back into the marketplaces," he said.

To combat this problem, Mr Westaway and his team developed the Micash system which allows women to send the fee directly to the National Capital District Commission for free.

"They were getting hassled by the collectors to get these two kina [US$0.75] fees, and sometimes more than once or twice a day," he said.

"So we've taken those collectors out of the picture, and the money goes direct to the authority now."

The bank has been conducting financial literacy classes, as more than half of the women who registered for the wallet did not have formal education.

"Mobile money and financial literacy training come hand-in-hand, and that's why with our Micash wallet we have high activity rates, because we educate people, and it's all about this financial education," Mr Westaway said.

The electronic wallet is currently being tested out in Port Moresby's Gerehu market and the bank plans to roll out the service around the country.

"I think that women in particular get a mobile wallet, often it's the first time to their own financial independence," he said.

"We know investing in women and with mobile money is going to pay dividends for a long time."

Mr Westaway says the mobile wallet, along with an increase in financial literacy, is encouraging women to save.

"We're saying to people that if you want to buy this television, if you want to buy this refrigerator or this esky for the house and the village, you need to save up so much and you need to save so much per week from selling your fish or selling your kai kai," he said.

"Bearing in mind most of these people... are informal sector people. But we're seeing them grow.

"We're seeing them move hopefully from the informal sector into the formal sector, and then they'll be contributing to the national economic growth."

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