Published on June 9th, 2011 | by Arsalan Mir7
Telenor/Easypaisa Responds to Blog Allegations
We had earlier reported on the UKAid supporting mobile money in Pakistan.
Going further on the news, while responding to media persons in Karachi, Andrew Mitchell, British Secretary of State for Department of International Development (DFID) said “The UK supported the mobile banking with initial seed money of dollars 1 million and the use of innovative mobile phone technology is aimed to empower poor people to pay bills and transfer money to their families in rural areas and the UK will help further expand it to three million more people over the next few years.”
On the basis of this statement by Secretary Andrew, a section in online media has alleged Easypaisa for using secret funds to establish itself. In response Telenor Pakistan has shared their viewpoint as below:
Telenor Pakistan has always supported bloggers and considers them to be online journalists. We believe they have a very important role to play in the evolution of online media in Pakistan.
Having an opinion and expressing it is the right of every citizen however, a line must be drawn when that opinion distorts and misrepresents facts and damages reputationions.
Telenor Pakistan is dismayed by the sensationalistic reporting on one of the leading telecom blogs.
In a recent story the blog alleges:
“It was recently unveiled that Telenor has secretly used British funds to establish its financial services solution called easypaisa
However, none of the involving parties, including Telenor, Tameer Bank or the British government ever announced the existence or the utilization of this fund.”
The fund is NOT a secret:
– The funding was received by Tameer Microfinance Bank NOT Telenor Pakistan through the State Bank of Pakistan and not directly from UKAid (DFID) or the British government.
– Tameer Microfinance Bank received it from the State Bank of Pakistan’s financial inclusion program under its technology related technical assistance grant for capacity building.
– Further details of the grant and its disbursal process are (and have been) on the State Bank’s website so were never a secret; http://www.sbp.org.pk/MFD/FIP/about.htm
– Tameer Microfinance Bank in its annual report published and available on its website, again in the public domain has declared all grants received; http://www.tameerbank.com/pdf/tmfb_financial_statements_2010.pdf Point #20, Pg 17 & Para 1, Pg 18
– An article was published on this grant in 2009; http://www.microfinancefocus.com/content/sbp-provides-rs-215-million-boost-pakistan-microfinance-sector?page=5&quicktabs_4=0
“Telenor on other hands, neither disclosed this information nor provided any subsidy/discount to end users for service usage against the funds it took from the British government”
– Again, the funding was given by the State Bank to Tameer Micorfinance Bank and NOT to Telenor Pakistan.
“It merits mentioning here that Telenor is making significant amount of revenues from it’s easypaisa services, while on other hands, despite of foreign aid, Easypaisa’s transactional charges are amongst the highest in all kind of money processing charges, locally and globally”
– Under its mandate, the grant cannot not be used to “subsidize” the cost of services offered. Since it was meant for “technology related technical assistance” it was used by Tameer Microfinance Bank to strengthen agent review and risk management systems and to enhance treasury and payment gateways for home remittances.
Our official statement sent to the blog admin before the article was published:
– UKAid’s contribution towards the branchless banking industry in Pakistan came through a disbursal to State Bank of Pakistan. In turn, Tameer Microfinance Bank received a grant for financial inclusion from State Bank of Pakistan last year. As a direct result of this grant, Rs. 82 million were allocated for branchless banking capacity building. The purpose was to further strengthen agent review system and risk management systems, critical for success of a branchless banking solution.
Considering the importance of home remittances for generating positive economic activity in the country, this year, Tameer Microfinance Bank has received Rs 20 million for enhancement of treasury and payment gateway for home remittances
Despite our efforts to make the facts available to the blog, well before the story got published and several times after they continue to keep their version of story on the blog; leaving us no choice but to present the facts and let them speak for themselves.
This was their official stance. I would further like to share an excerpt of a recent CGAP survey which interacted with Easypaisa customers where the general response shows that the service is valued and is making lives easier.
Until recently there has been very little data on the income levels of the users of branchless banking. CGAP commissioned Coffey International Development to carry out studies of customers of several branchless banking services. The first study to take place was with EasyPaisa customers in Pakistan. With over 10,000 agents across the country, EasyPaisa already has more access points than the entire banking sector of Pakistan combined, and allows customers to send and receive money to friends and family, to pay their bills and, more recently, to open an account on their Telenor phone. We wanted to find out whether poor customers and those that were previously unbanked were using the service.
327 interviews were carried out with EasyPaisa customers at 10 locations across both rural/semi-urban and urban Pakistan between January and February 2011. Customers answered questions about both their use of EasyPaisa, but also about their homes and their household that allowed us to work out their approximate income level by comparing their answers to a nationally representative household survey.
What did we find?
- When we looked at income levels we found that around two-fifths (41%) of EasyPaisa users live on less than $2.50 per day (in 2005 PPP adjusted dollars). The majority of customers (69%) live on less than $3.75 per day, but few customers (5%) were living below $1.25 per day.
- When we looked at customers’ use of other banking services we found that just under half (45%) of all respondents did not have a bank account, with informal money lenders being the next highest provider of financial services (far above microcredit).
- There was also a strong correlation between the likelihood of being poor and the likelihood of not having had a bank account among users.
Customers from all walks of life seemed to value the service and felt that it was making their lives easier.
- When asked to rate the service, over 90% of respondents rated EasyPaisa as highly effective. Less than 10% rated it as moderately effective and almost no one rated the service as ineffective.
- Three-quarters of the respondents (76%) felt the service has a positive impact on their lives and a high majority of users (88%) thought the service was easy to use.
- There are a high number of repeat users: just under two-thirds (65%) of all respondents using the service to send money do so at least once a month.
These results are encouraging and seem to support the findings that are emerging from other studies that suggest that branchless banking services do reach poor people.