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Vodafone and Roshan Launch First Mobile Money Transfer Service in Afghanistan

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Vodafone and Roshan announced the launch of Afghanistan's first mobile money transfer system. The service, branded M-Paisa, is a mobile technology platform that provides financial services for those without access to banking and aims to facilitate economic activity in the region.

The M-Paisa system builds on Vodafone’s M-PESA mobile money transfer service in Kenya which has seen 1.6 million people register as customers since its launch in March 2007. At launch the Afghan service will, however, have a significantly different focus from the Kenyan version. Initially M-Paisa will act mainly as a vehicle for microfinance institutions’ (MFI) loan disbursements and repayments, with an additional range of business to business applications such as salary disbursement and airtime distribution. Consumer person-to-person transactions will also be available from the outset, enabling those MFI clients and employees who have received their money via M-Paisa to benefit from the full capabilities of the service.

Roshan and Vodafone are trialing interactive voice recognition services which, when launched later in the year, will enable greater use of M-Paisa by consumers who might otherwise be excluded due to high illiteracy rates in Afghanistan.

Roshan’s retail outlets will serve as transaction points for the withdrawal or paying in of money, thus reducing any dependence on financial institutions. Currently, there are 50 M-Paisa-trained dealers in the cities of Kabul, Mazar, Jalalabad and Herat; Roshan is looking to expand agent reach nationwide by the end of 2008. In addition, M-Paisa will be used by major organisations such as Afghanistan’s The First MicroFinanceBank and FINCA – one of the world’s largest microfinance institutions. The First MicroFinanceBank has successfully used the service to disburse funds and accept loan repayments while FINCA is currently trialing the product. Other institutions within Afghanistan will soon use M-Paisa to disburse salaries to their unbanked employees.

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