M-Paisa brings financial services to un-banked and assists in economic development in Afghanistan

Vodafone, the world’s leading international mobile communications group and Roshan, the leading telecommunications operator in Afghanistan, today announce the launch of Afghanistan’s first mobile money transfer system. The service, branded M-Paisa, is a mobile technology platform that provides financial services for those without access to banking and aims to facilitate economic activity in the region.

The M-Paisa system builds on Vodafone’s highly successful M-PESA mobile money transfer service in Kenya which has seen 1.6 million people register as customers since its launch in March 2007. At launch the Afghan service will, however, have a significantly different focus from the Kenyan version. Initially M-Paisa will act mainly as a vehicle for microfinance institutions’ (MFI) loan disbursements and repayments, with an additional range of business to business applications such as salary disbursement and airtime distribution. Consumer person-to-person transactions will also be available from the outset, enabling those MFI clients and employees who have received their money via M-Paisa to benefit from the full capabilities of the service.

Roshan and Vodafone are trialing interactive voice recognition services which, when launched later in the year, will enable greater use of M-Paisa by consumers who might otherwise be excluded due to high illiteracy rates in Afghanistan.

Roshan’s retail outlets will serve as transaction points for the withdrawal or paying in of money, thus reducing any dependence on financial institutions. Currently, there are 50 M-Paisa-trained dealers in the cities of Kabul, Mazar, Jalalabad and Herat; Roshan is looking to expand agent reach nationwide by the end of 2008. In addition, M-Paisa will be used by major organisations such as Afghanistan’s The First MicroFinanceBank and FINCA – one of the world’s largest microfinance institutions. The First MicroFinanceBank has successfully used the service to disburse funds and accept loan repayments while FINCA is currently trialing the product. Other institutions within Afghanistan will soon use M-Paisa to disburse salaries to their unbanked employees.

Karim Khoja, Chief Executive Officer for Roshan, said:

“The benefits of mobile money transfer are particularly relevant in a developing market such as Afghanistan, where the large majority of the population does not have access to traditional banking services. The challenge of providing timely and reliable payments in a country requiring major infrastructure development is significant. M-Paisa, with Roshan’s mobile network, will provide the backbone to enable such funds to be transferred reliably which will provide an important vehicle for economic regeneration.

“The launch of M-Paisa is consistent with Roshan’s vision of promoting social and economic development within Afghanistan, a key focus of Roshan’s majority shareholder, the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), an international development agency dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship and building economically sound enterprises in the developing world.”

Hatem Dowidar, CEO of Vodafone Partner Markets said:

“The launch of M-Paisa in Afghanistan is an important step forward in Vodafone’s international rollout of its money transfer service and we welcome Roshan to Vodafone’s international community of Partner Markets.

“We have always envisaged that our mobile money transfer would develop differently in each new market according to the requirements of that country. Vodafone is therefore particularly pleased that, alongside today’s launch with Roshan and a range of microfinance institutions and companies, our trialing of an interactive voice recognition system means that financial services can be brought to people across the world regardless of their social circumstances.”

Muslim ul Haq, Chief Executive Officer of First Microfinance Bank, an institutional client of M-Paisa, added:

“M-Paisa offers us the ability to extend benefits of microfinance to those who have not had access to financial resources in the past. M-Paisa makes it more cost effective and convenient for our clients to access the services we offer.”

For further information:

Vodafone Group

Media Relations
Tel: +44 (0) 1635 664444
Investor Relations
Tel: +44 (0) 1635 664447

Roshan

Telecom Development Company Afghanistan Ltd.
House #13, Main Street, Wazir Akbar Khan, Kabul, Afghanistan
Office: +93 (0) 799 971 728
Fax: +93 (0) 79 978 800
E-mail: Renata.flatt@roshan.af
Or visit our website: www.roshan.af

Jessica Anderson
Hill & Knowlton
212-885-0492
jessica.anderson@hillandknowlton.com

Notes to Editors

About Vodafone
Vodafone is the world's leading international mobile communications group with over 252 million proportionate customers as at 31st December 2007. Vodafone currently has equity interests in 25 countries across five continents and a further 40 partner networks worldwide. For more information, please visit www.vodafone.com

About Roshan
Roshan (Telecom Development Company Afghanistan Ltd) is Afghanistan’s leading Telecom operator, with coverage in over 216 major cities and towns and over one million subscribers. Roshan directly employs more than 900 people and provides indirect employment to more than 20,000 people. Since its inception 4 years ago, Roshan has invested over US$305 million in Afghanistan and is the country’s single largest investor and tax payer. Roshan is deeply committed to Afghanistan’s reconstruction and socio-economic development. Owned by an international consortium formed by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), part of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), Monaco Telecom International (MTI) and US-based TeliaSonera, Roshan brings international expertise to Afghanistan and is committed to the highest standards of network quality and coverage for the people of Afghanistan.