Fellow Honourable Ministers,
The Chairperson and Board of Vodafone Fiji,
The Regional CEO of Vodafone Fiji,
Members of the Diplomatic Corp and Heads of Delegation,
Industry Captains of the Business Community,
Our friends from the Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening, I am extremely pleased to be here for what I am told will be a game changer for Fiji in our quest for greater financial and economic inclusion. In an increasingly digital economy, technology and digitalisation are the strong points of progression.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Digital wallets as simple as M-PAiSA genuinely have a positive influence on the Fijian economy. As a powerful tool digital wallets such as M-PAiSA have accelerated development and promoted equality, mobilising funds in the informal sector and empowering our rural communities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
On a global front, UN member states have made an unequivocal commitment to eradicate poverty in all its forms, end discrimination and exclusion leaving no one behind.  And one of the fundamentals to achieving this noble objective is for citizens to be economically included and to be able to actively participate in the national economy.

So my liking for e-wallets like M-PAiSA is obvious – Kudos to Vodafone for this achievement in the short span of time is nothing short of phenomenal.

I am told, there are over 580,000 registered M-PAiSA Mobile Wallet holders.  On average, 335,000 active users every month conduct transactions valued around $270m which means M-PAiSA is expected to process over $3b in financial transactions for 2023 -- creating a significant multiplier effect in the economy as money moves quicker in the economy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
One of the areas that M-PAiSA has really thrived in, is the inward remittance space.  Around 35 to 38 percent of the inward remittances into the country now come directly into the mobile wallet.  M-PAiSA brings in on average $36m every month and has significantly reduced the cost of sending cross border remittances. From a net retainer point of view, inwards remittances have the highest impact on the Fijian economy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
With many Fijians working abroad including in Australia, New Zealand, they have the comfort of sending money to their families back here at home within seconds at a minimum cost through the M-PAiSA mobile wallet.

It is particularly pleasing to note that 52 percent of M-PAiSA users are women – and it has for the first time enabled many women particularly in rural areas to have a financial account of their own, what a great win for women empowerment and inclusion! I must say the welfare of the family and children are in safe hands.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Until now M-PAiSA was a closed loop payment service, put into simple terms -- M-PAiSA users were only able to transact within Fiji with the balance held in their M-PAiSA account. But, today’s milestone achievement for Vodafone M-PAiSA recognises the addition of M-PAiSA Mastercard to its growing list of financial services. From today M-PAiSA becomes an open loop payment system and part of the global Scheme Card Payment network.

This means registered M-PAiSA users that acquire a M-PAiSA Mastercard will be able to use their M-PAiSA balance and make Online payments on E-commerce platforms for their favorite Fijian Made products and services seamlessly.  Registered users traveling overseas can also use their M-PAiSA Mastercard to make payment outside Fiji and subscribe to popular entertainment channels.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Mastercard is accepted in 250 countries and over 100 million merchants worldwide – making M-PAiSA a global payment platform. I extend my hearty congratulations to the Vodafone team for becoming a licensed Mastercard Issuer. Being granted a Global Payment card license is a valiant achievement for Vodafone M-PAiSA – and is a ground-breaking payment service to Fijians.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am told that Vodafone will issue a virtual card on the M-PAiSA App which is a direct replica of the physical card that users can carry in the Wallet. The great part about applying for your M-PAiSA Mastercard is that the process is 100 percent digital – and can be directly carried out through the M-PAiSA App. A win as a highly efficient and environmentally friendly process.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Having recently been granted the National Payment Service Provider Licensee by the Reserve Bank of Fiji under the newly enacted National Payments Act – M-PAiSA services come under the same level of prudential supervision by the Reserve Bank similar to a commercial bank. This ensures account holder funds are always safeguarded and protected.

Ladies and Gentlemen, coming back to tonight’s event, with these words I have much pleasure in launching the M-PAiSA Mastercard.

Vinaka Vakalevu and Thank you.