Aid agencies trying to remake Haiti after a catastrophic earthquake are promoting a new way to bypass banks altogether: easy money transfers by cellphone.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Getting money in Haiti can be a harrowing experience: Bank branches are few, most of them are in the capital and a simple transaction can take half a day. Cash machines are scarce as well, and often broken or empty. And then there are the thieves who often wait nearby in hopes of finding a mark.
So aid agencies trying to remake Haiti after a catastrophic earthquake are promoting a new way to bypass banks altogether: easy money transfers by cellphone. The U.S. government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have pumped millions of dollars into the plan, which lets people save and move money in mobile phone accounts and quickly withdraw it at a network of retail stores around the country.
As yet, though, few Haitians are buying the idea, which has become one of many post-quake projects to fall short of expectations and a reminder of how hard it is to change a society that has been repeatedly set back by political upheaval and natural disasters.