Case Study: Mobile Money-Based Government-to-Person Payments in Haiti

05 March 2014
"Ti Manman Cheri started from nothing. We had to build it all—the design, the program, the teams. But it was immediately a big program and a big priority for [the government] so we decided we had to just start and then improve as we go.”

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80 percent of Haitians living under US$2 per day. In 2010, Haiti had 2.5 bank branches for every 100,000 adults, down from 2.9 the previous year. Haiti also had an estimated 35 percent mobile penetration in 2010, up from 5 percent in 2006; 85 percent of Haitians had access to a mobile phone.

Following the 2010 earthquake that destroyed most of Port au Prince and surrounding areas, billions of dollars in humanitarian assistance have poured into the country to urgently aid its recovery. Despite the quick and significant influx of donations, in January 2012, Oxfam America reported that, of the estimated US$4.6 billion pledged by donors in the aftermath of the earthquake, only 43 percent of those donor-controlled relief funds had been disbursed (Oxfam 2012).

As donor money poured in after the earthquake, the Haitian government and relief organizations faced a serious obstacle: they had few effective ways to get money to the people and projects that needed it. As a result, they had a backlog of funds. In response, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID launched a US$10 million “incentive fund” through the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative (HMMI), to stimulate the implementation of mobile money in Haiti. Two of the country’s telecommunications companies—Digicel with 63 percent of wireless subscribers and Voila with 17 percent of wireless subscribers in 2010—had planned to launch mobile money products before the earthquake derailed their plans. The Gates Foundation and USAID launched HMMI in hopes of speeding up the development of mobile money so that humanitarian organizations could deliver cash to earthquake victims more quickly and help Haitians send, receive, and store money securely with their mobile phones.

Whereas NGOs adopted mobile money in its infancy to implement cash transfer schemes, the Government of Haiti's experience with both mobile money and cash transfer schemes is recent. While he was still minister of Foreign Affairs, the current prime minister of Haiti, Laurent Lamothe, developed a vision for Haiti’s first conditional cash transfer (CCT) program after being inspired by the positive impact of CCT programs on human development in Latin America and the Caribbean. With US$15 million allocated from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe fund to cover the program’s first year of set up, operations, and cash transfer payments, the Government of Haiti, directly controlling and disbursing the funds, introduced Ti Manman Cheri (TMC) as the country’s first government-led CCT program.

This case study discusses the design and implementation of the Ti Manman Cheri program as well as the experiences of stakeholders and overall lessons learned from this program.