M-Selen marks 1st anniversary making strides in financial inclusion across Solomon Islands

BY NED GAGAHE

M-SELEN yesterday celebrated its first anniversary with a grand event at GG’s Restaurant, Heritage Park Hotel, Honiara highlighting a significant journey of progress and impact in the Solomon Islands’ financial landscape.

Speaking at the gathering Our Telekom’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Christina Lasaqa emphasized that the occasion wasn’t just about commemorating a year of operations but also acknowledging the strides made in advancing financial inclusion.

CEO Lasaqa pointed out that financial inclusion remains a formidable challenge, with only 25.6 percent of the population having bank accounts and a sparse distribution of ATMs, making accessing financial services difficult, especially in remote areas.

The CEO said the average travel time of 69 minutes to reach a bank agent and the cost, averaging USD 9.48, pose substantial financial strains, particularly for low-income households.

She said these challenges highlight a prevalent reliance on traditional cash-based transactions, with 72 percent of domestic remittances conducted in physical cash, further exacerbating financial exclusion, especially within the informal sector, which accounts for approximately 75 percent of total employment.

“Good morning and welcome to the 1st anniversary celebration of M-SELEN. It is an honour to have you all here today to mark this significant milestone in our journey. As we gather here at GG’s Restaurant, Heritage Park Hotel, Honiara, we are not just celebrating a year of operations but a year of progress and impact.

“When we launched M-SELEN on June 12, 2023, our vision was to provide a secure, accessible, and efficient mobile money service that would bridge the financial inclusion gap in the Solomon Islands. Today, I am proud to say that we have made remarkable progress towards that goal, and I would like to share some highlights of our journey with you.

“Financial inclusion remains a formidable challenge in our country. With only 25.6 percent of the population holding bank accounts and a sparse distribution of ATMs—just 1.27 per 10,000 adults—accessing financial services is a difficult task, particularly for those in remote areas.

“The average travel time of 69 minutes to reach a bank agent further compounds this challenge, disproportionately burdening resource-constrained individuals. Moreover, the cost of reaching a bank agent, averaging USD 9.48, poses a substantial financial strain, especially for low-income households.

“These statistics underscore a prevalent reliance on traditional cash-based transactions, with 72 percent of domestic remittances conducted in physical cash. The informal sector, which accounts for approximately 75 percent of total employment, faces similar challenges, exacerbating the broader issue of financial exclusion.

“M-SELEN was created to change this scenario. Over the past year, we have made significant strides in transforming the financial landscape of the Solomon Islands. I am pleased to report that we have registered approximately 10% of the Solomon Islands’ total population with our mobile money wallet. This achievement is even more significant given that 46% of our users are women, many of whom had no previous access to formal financial services.

“Our extensive agent network now covers every province, making financial services more accessible to people across the country. We have processed transactions worth over SBD 100 million, and our customers have collectively saved approximately SBD 21 million by avoiding trips to bank branches or bank agents for doing financial transactions.

“These milestones are not just numbers; they represent real impacts on the lives of our people. M-SELEN has contributed to driving business growth and economic development across the Solomon Islands. By providing a reliable and efficient mobile money platform, we are enabling businesses to thrive, facilitating trade, and supporting the broader economy.” CEO Lasaqa said.

Bauro Laxton Koraua, Chairperson of Our Telekom Board, expressed immense pleasure as he celebrated the first anniversary of M-SELEN, reflecting on the collaborative effort and groundbreaking progress made over the past year.

“It is my great pleasure to stand before you today as we celebrate the first anniversary of M-SELEN. This occasion is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and collaboration of everyone involved in this ground-breaking initiative. It is a moment of pride and reflection as we look back at the remarkable journey we have undertaken over the past year.

“When we embarked on this journey a year ago, we were driven by a shared vision to transform the financial landscape of the Solomon Islands. Today, I am proud to say that M-SELEN has exceeded our expectations and brought about meaningful change in the lives of many Solomon Islanders. This transformation is evident in the numerous milestones we have achieved and the positive feedback we have received from our users.” Chairman Koraua said.

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