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More than 90 percent of Liberia’s roads are unpaved. To get to the banks in the city centers, Liberia’s rural populations must make the expensive, dangerous and time-consuming trip over eroding roads. During the rainy season, from April to November, roads can become completely unnavigable, transformed into muddy swamps pocked with massive, water-filled potholes. Adding to this, lines at banks can be hours or even days long, and low liquidity leads to regular cash shortages. All these factors combine to create a situation in which health and education workers can miss anywhere from a day to a week of work to collect their salaries.
To address this challenge, the Liberian government has partnered with the Mobile Solutions Technical Assistance and Research (mSTAR) project, led by FHI 360 and funded by USAID, to roll out mobile salary payments for Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health workers. With mobile salary payments, these workers no longer need to leave their workplaces to receive their salaries. Since the program launched in 2016, 3,187 education and 803 health workers have enrolled in 14 counties.
With mobile money, Liberians go to an agent, whom they often know by name. There is seldom a line, and people are free to go on their own time, unrestricted by bank hours. Since Lonestar MTN, one of the largest mobile network operators in Liberia, debuted its mobile money product in 2011, 1.6 million people have subscribed. For a nation of 4.6 million, that represents significant uptake.
What might this increased competition bring to Liberia? New and diverse products? Broader financial inclusion for the population, of which 72 percent are unbanked? There is optimism that this is what the future could bring. In the short-term, it is apparent that Liberia is headed in the right direction.
Read the full article about Mobile Money by Erica Bustinza at Degrees.