In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), vast geographical distances and difficult transport conditions make distribution of funds a challenge. Under the USAID PAQUED project, 27,600 Ministry of Education teachers received their per diem and payments through mobile money. While it is often difficult to synchronize the lists of teachers who are entitled to receive funds against those who attend the training, the registration required for mobile money payments provides a ready-made cross-check functionality that safeguards against fraud.
In Liberia, the USAID Advancing Youth Project is using mobile money to pay stipends to administrators and facilitators who are providing Alternative Basic Education (ABE) services to youth. As the project scaled-up, it became increasingly cumbersome and dangerous to physically visit often remote sites to issue facilitators monthly payments of $50 USD in cash. In 2012-13 the project piloted the use of mobile money with 20% of its training providers. Working with Lonestar Cell MTN, facilitators were initially enrolled to receive mobile money for three months and given the the option of returning to cash payments after the pilot period.
Despite the fact that mobile money is new and relatively unknown in Liberia, 80% of the pilot participants elected to continue to receive their stipends through mobile money after the trial period. Among their reasons, participants cited speed of transfer, security, and privacy -- along with the ability to easily purchase airtime and the ease with which they could cash out at different merchants across Liberia. Equally important, savings to the project were between 25%-40% of the cost of paying the stipends physically. Administrative savings enable the project to channel more funds directly to beneficiaries.
In the Philippines, the USAID Basa Pilipinas project started using mobile money in January 2013. By automating payments for transportation and per diem to teacher training participants, the project saves money and staff time, while also eliminating the safety risk associated with cash payment.
Partnering with the Bank of the Philippine Islands through their Banko mobile service division (BPI Banko), 470 Grade 3 teachers were registered at their training site, with funds transfer completed in two working days. Even accounting for banking fees, the mobile money payment system saved approximately 50% of costs associated with physical payment while reducing staff time by 60%.
Through text message surveys, the project discovered that some teachers are beginning to use mobile money for savings, bill payment, and receipt of remittances. The service is attractive since there is no minimum balance required for savings and because it offers other incentives such as personal insurance. Users also enjoyed reduced rates for cell phone airtime after registering. Nearly 79% of users surveyed rated the service overall mobile money service as “Very Good” or “Excellent.”
EDC is now in discussions with the Department of Education to ensure that this payment method is integrated into future program training activities. Over the course of a four year project, 9,000 teachers and 4,500 administrators will be trained. The total amount to be processed using mobile money could exceed $1.5 million USD. Using mobile money, EDC will help ensure fast, safe, and convenient processing of expenses, allowing project staff and teachers to focus on teaching.