Haiti: A shaky recovery (Part 2)| The Seattle Times

In the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, few people have bank accounts. But cheap cellphones are ubiquitous, and for people like Johanna Joseph, they are the sole link with any form of banking.While most Haitians store their wealth in the form of crumpled, grimy bills, Joseph gets a monthly stipend from the government deposited directly into an electronic cash account tied to her cellphone.One afternoon last November, the 28-year-old mother of two used the system for the first time. She withdrew the equivalent of $40 in local currency at a poorly lit shop in Carrefour, a down-and-out suburb of Port-au-Prince that still bears the scars of the 2010 earthquake.“I’ll use the money to buy shoes,” she said. About 60,000 people in Haiti use these so-called “mobile wallets” — electronically transferring money to relatives and friends across the country, or simply keeping it safe from thieves. For them, no more worn-out gourdes, as the local currency is called, stashed under the mattress.In a country of 10 million, however, that number is a disappointment. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other fans of the technology hoped that following the earthquake, mobile wallets would take off here as they did in Kenya, where a large percentage of households use it.But Haiti has long confounded even the best-funded development efforts. via | Seattle Times


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