Remittances: Oklahoma Bank Partners with Haitian Microfinance Institution to Fig...

Feb 2008
United States, February, 28 2008 - Fonkoze, Haiti's largest micro-finance institution, and Central National Bank of Enid, Oklahoma, have partnered to create a low-cost stored-value card that offers Haitian Diaspora and others in the U.S. both a convenient way to manage their own finances and an inexpensive way to increase income and investment in Haiti through remittances.

The two organizations recently signed an agreement under which CNB will issue a prepaid card for Fonkoze. Interactive Transaction Services, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CNB, will process the cards. Value can be stored on the cards in three ways: through direct payroll deposit, at participating banks, and through other load networks. The cards will have all the features of CNB's current prepaid card portfolio, but will also allow holders to send remittances up to $2,500 per day to Haiti for only $6 and make long distance phone calls at a competitive rate. Alianza International, a prepaid debit card and money transfer enabling company, will provide consumer marketing and remittance delivery support for CNB and Fonkoze. The product will be available on the market March 21, 2008.

"Fonkoze has been very successful in proving that economic change in Haiti is possible," said Brud Baker, president and CEO of CNB. "The flow of money to Haiti is directly related to effective remittance channels, and we feel strongly that we can be a positive influence towards eliminating the extreme poverty that exists in that country by utilizing prepaid cards to make remittances cheap and reliable."

Haitians living abroad, a diaspora 1.5 million strong, sent more than $1.65 billion to their country in 2006. Most of that diaspora is concentrated in the United States, totaling 850,000 to 1 million people. 1.1 million adults in Haiti receive remittances, typically 10 times per year at an average of $150 per remittance.

"We're excited about the new Fonkoze-CNB card," said Fonkoze Executive Director Anne Hastings, "because it is one more way to make affordable financial services available to our clients even as it offers us a way to begin reaching out to their families and friends in the United States."

Fonkoze's mission is to provide tools that help Haiti's poor work their way out of poverty. They work to accomplish that through their 34 branches, located all over the country, by offering financial services to both borrowers and savers. Fonkoze has worked directly with 150,000 individuals and facilitated $62 million in remittances in the last six years. The organization also offers micro-insurance, literacy, and other education services.

"We believe the structure of this program and economic benefit to the Haitian people is a sound model that microfinance institutions worldwide will follow," said Randy Gutierrez, president of Alianza. "The simplicity of the prepaid card and remittance process coupled with low pricing and fee transparency will assist with rapid consumer adoption of the Fonkoze program."

Source : CSRwire

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