Measuring the Reach of Digital Financial Services in Haiti

Nikhil Gehani and Ruth Kadjo|May, 2018

 

When most people think of Haiti, images of the 2010 earthquake devastation come to mind. The earthquake, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries, also caused major damage to critical financial infrastructure. According to Intermedia, the nonprofit research organization, the earthquake destroyed between 30 and 40 percent of bank branches and ATMs in Haiti[1], leaving an already underserved population with few options for accessing cash to deal with the aftermath. However, the seemingly insurmountable challenges for Haiti also inspired a number of actors to reimagine the country’s financial infrastructure.

 

As the country began to rebuild, USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative, a program that encouraged two of the largest mobile network operators to launch Haiti’s first-ever mobile money services in partnership with banks. In partnership with Scotiabank, Digicel rolled out its TchoTcho Mobile service (later rebranded as ‘MonCash’) while Voíla partnered with Unibank to launch T-Cash[2]. For a country with extremely low rates of access to formal financial services, the introduction of these mobile money services marked a turning point for financial inclusion in Haiti. Building on this early momentum, the Banque de la République d’Haïti (BRH), with support from the World Bank, launched its National Financial Inclusion Strategy[3], which aimed to increase access – only 19 percent of adults had access to a formal account in 2014[4] - to financial products and services.

 

While Haiti has taken great strides in recent years to improve the provision of financial services – access rates rose to 22 percent in 2015[5] and agent banking has grown in recent years[6] – actors still need a reliable information base to begin targeting specific areas for intervention. To help establish this foundation, USAID’s Finance Inclusive Project, in partnership with MIX, has launched a new interactive data tool that maps financial access points across Haiti, including bank branches, agents and ATMs. As part of the Haiti Finance Inclusive project[7], implemented by DAI, the geospatial analysis of access points will allow market actors to identify underserved regions and assess opportunities to reach the unbanked.

 

A key pillar of Haiti's National Financial Inclusion Strategy is greater adoption of new technologies, including digital financial services. Currently, out of a surveyed base of over 5,200 financial access points in Haiti, 51 percent belong to non-bank agents, the mobile money providers working in partnership with banks, and 36 percent of belong to money transfer operators.  From this data, it is abundantly clear the important role of non-bank agents and money transfer operators in bringing access to financial services closer to more Haitians. Indeed, MonCash, a non-bank agent manager, has the largest presence in Haiti, accounting for 47 percent of all financial access points. Still, a number of arrondissements remain below the national median in terms of number of agents per 10,000 inhabitants. This highlights opportunities for mobile money non-bank agents to explore greater outreach in arrondissements including Valliières, Gros-Morne and Dessalines, which together have a potential market of 715,000 inhabitants. 

 

Haiti financial access

L: Total number of access points by commune; R: Number of access points / 10,000 population

 

Digital financial services have the benefit of reaching more rural areas where full services branches are more difficult to set up and maintain. Mobile transfer operators and non-bank agents in Haiti are no different. In L’Artibonite department, which has the highest rural population, 537 out of 600 financial access points belong to mobile transfer operators and non-bank agents. Yet, this does not exclude other types of institutions, including microfinance institutions (MFIs) from exploring opportunities in these areas. MFIs could increase their presence – alone or in partnership with mobile money providers – in arrondissements that have considerable populations – over 100,000 – but few MFI access points. The data dashboards (shown below) indicate that arrondissements in L’Artibonite and Nord-Ouest departments could provide MFIs with new expansion opportunities.

 

Haiti financial inclusion

Adult population vs. MFI access points by arrondissement

 

 

Unsurprisingly, there are many differences in the types of access points that are available in rural areas of Haiti and those that are available in the urban centers. For example, MFIs and credit unions (caisses populaires) are found primarily in rural districts. On the other hand, commercial banks tend to mainly implement their access points in urban areas: 66.5 percent in the arrondissement of Port-au-Prince versus 10.4 percent Jacmel.

 

 

Haiti rural financial access

Banks, MFI and cooperative access points by commune and rural population

 

 

In sum, the Interactive Dashboard for Haiti provides financial inclusion stakeholders with a deeper understanding of the distribution of financial service access points and associated demand. The granular context provided in the data visualizations can aid in monitoring progress toward financial inclusion objectives and provide critical inputs into financial inclusion policies and interventions. And, by making the information readily available and accessible, Haiti is taking another step in demonstrating its commitment to ensuring its entire population can benefit from appropriate financial services.