AT least one third of the population still do not have access to banking or financial services, Robin Yarrow, the chairman of the National Financial Inclusion Taskforce said.
Speaking at the launch of a Vodafone-Post Fiji partnership yesterday, Mr Yarrow said technology was bridging the gap within our communities.
"Inadequate banking and financial infrastructure, particularly outside of the main urban centres, has made it imperative for us to look at new and innovative ways to take financial services to more people in more cost-effective ways," Mr Yarrow said.
"The Vodafone M-PAiSA is one such service that has capitalised on the proliferation of mobile phones and the advances in technology to make financial services more convenient and accessible.
"Whilst technology has made it easier to send and receive money electronically, it nonetheless still requires cash-in and cash out points to either load or withdraw money from your M-PAiSA account.
"While Fiji is still a long way from branchless banking and electronic payment systems being a reality we have made a solid start and are a considerable distance ahead of many other countries.
"We are all aware how difficult it can be to open a bank account if one does not have a permanent job. This is especially so in rural areas where there are fewer salaried/wage job options.
"An M-PAiSA account in fact offers a real opportunity for individuals without bank accounts to begin to save in their 'mobile wallets' and over time to build a track record of savings and of financial management — this factual information can only assist in convincing progressive bankers of an individual's ability and commitment and we hope this will lead to more accounts being opened," Mr Yarrow said.
He added that the partnership between Vodafone and Post Fiji was a significant achievement in the provision of financial services to more people.
"If we look at the history of postal services in Fiji, it was possibly the first institution to establish service outlets in many key centres throughout Fiji. In fact the location of the Post Office has influenced how population in many parts of Fiji has settled," Mr Yarrow said.
"Post Offices still serve as a strategic location in the delivery of many essential services to the people of Fiji. The provision of M-PAiSA services through Post Fiji opens up financial access in many hard-to-reach locations around Fiji and also creates new opportunities for Post Fiji, some of which may not yet be fully evident.
"The National Financial Inclusion Taskforce has been working on a number of initiatives to cushion the impact of natural disasters on the financially vulnerable whilst also giving them an opportunity to move out of the poverty cycle.
"A number of new micro-finance products such as micro-insurance and micro-enterprise services are now available. With the provision of micro-insurance premium payments and loan repayments through M-PAiSA, these products have become more attractive and less costly to service. We do urge people to explore these payment options now available through M-PAiSA."