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Haitian CUs join WOCCU International Remittances Network
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (9/21/11)--Haitians abroad now have a more affordable way to send money back home through Haiti’s caisses populaires, or credit unions. Last week, seven credit unions affiliated with the Le Levier network in Haiti launched remittance services through the International Remittances Network (IRnet), a platform owned and operated by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU).
Click to view larger image Nicolas Bona Junior Metellus receives one of the first remittances transferred through CPSA CU in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Last week, seven credit unions affiliated with the Le Levier network in Haiti launched remittance services through the International Remittances Network (IRnet), a platform owned and operated by World Council of Credit Unions. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
Haitians can receive remittances at their local credit union through money transfer operator (MTO) Ria Financial Services, Inc., a 100,000-agent network in 131 countries across five continents. “Despite its vital importance to the local economy, Haiti’s remittance market remains a virtual oligarchy with very high prices, poor service and limited rural access,” said Saul Wolf, IRnet manager, pointing out that few remittance firms offer services in Haiti. “With WOCCU’s know-how and valued partners like Ria and Le Levier, we aim to create a national network that can provide the same or better service but at a lower cost than the main players.” Ria is one of 10 MTOs offered through IRnet’s platform, which provides financial institutions the technology and training to offer competitively priced remittance services with minimal upfront investment. IRnet partners with low-cost MTOs like Ria to help stimulate local competition and works with credit unions to encourage the rural poor to enter the formal financial sector through remittances. Haiti annually receives $1.5 billion in remittances, accounting for 21.2% of its gross domestic product, according to the World Bank. But with few MTO options in Haiti, senders pay an average of 6% to 10% of the total transfer amount to remit money to the country, significantly reducing the amount the receiver collects. Prices vary daily and by location, but the cost of sending a remittance through Ria is up to 50% lower than through market leader Western Union, Wolf said. Nicolas Bona Junior Metellus was the one of the first people to use the new remittance service in Haiti when he picked up a money transfer from Switzerland on Monday at CPSA CU in in Port-au-Prince. He is not currently a member, but he said he was happy with the service and planned to join the credit union on his next visit. Making remittance services available to both members and non-members alike, as IRnet does, opens the door for new membership opportunities and developing remittance-linked products, WOCCU said. Ansy Saintervil, assistant general manager of Le Levier, said IRnet has helped credit unions bring a much-needed resource to the rural communities they serve. “This service is very important for the Haitian people because it’s offered through the credit unions, which serve the most disadvantaged and are spread over 10 regions of the country in some of the most remote places,” Saintervil said. “It’s also important to note that a good part of the population lives on transfers coming from overseas, particularly the U.S. and Canada.” Remittances in the past week have come through Haiti’s credit unions from senders in Canada, France, Switzerland and the U.S. Seven of Le Levier’s 20 affiliated credit unions are piloting IRnet through 15 service points. Le Levier plans to grow the network to 50 locations by the end of the year and has signed memorandums of understanding with more than 25 unaffiliated credit unions. “The introduction of lower-cost remittances through IRnet and Ria in Haiti brings the rural poor one step closer to financial inclusion in the country,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU president/CEO. “We look forward to seeing the remittances network expand through Haiti’s credit unions in the coming months and years.” The Haiti Integrated Financing for Value Chains and Enterprises program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and managed by WOCCU, provided technical and logistical support in expanding the IRnet platform to Haiti. It was funded by the international credit union movement through contributions made to WOCCU’s Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions.
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