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    USAID grants to help Afghans use mobile money services

    KABUL (PAN): The USAID said on Wednesday it had signed innovation grants with three major Afghan mobile network operators to support the expansion of mobile money in the country.

    The grants to Etisalat, MTN and Roshan M-Paisa will enable more than 100,000 Afghans to use mobile money to transfer funds to friends and family members, promote their businesses, receive salaries and pay utility bills.

    A statement from the US agency said through the Mobile Money Innovation Grant Fund, it was laying the foundation for future development by supporting public-private partnerships to build innovative mobile money applications and increase the number of clients and agents.

    At the signing ceremony, USAID Deputy Mission Director Jed Barton encouraged government ministries to consider using mobile money to improve service delivery efficiency and effectiveness. He noted that mobile money could improve both the transparency of government salary payments and the ease of bill payments.

    The launch of Etisalat’s M-Hawala service coincided with the signing of the $748,000 grant agreement with USAID. The grant supports Etisalat’s mobile money service, enabling customers to pay utility bills using mobile money services.

    Etisalat Chief Commercial Officer Dr. Ali Asgharzadeh said, “Etisalat is proud to be leading the way in empowering the Afghan people by giving them access to banking products via their mobile phones. Our ultimate goal is to allow all Afghans access to affordable financial services on Etisalat’s national network.”

    The Mobile Telecommunications Network Afghanistan (MTN) announced its partnership with USAID on November 27 at a $950,000 grant fund signing ceremony. The grant will assist MTN in expanding its mobile money services into rural areas and promote teacher salary payments using mobile money.

    pr/mud