This summer, some of NOVAFRICA student group’s members have been in Mozambique to participate in a research project by the center related to the introduction of mobile banking. The project is run in collaboration with the International Growth Center and Carteira Móvel, the mother company of Mozambique biggest telecommunications operator mCel.
The mobile banking service offered by mCel – mKesh, “o banco na mão” – allows clients to deposit, withdraw and transfer money as well as paying expenses via their mobile phones. Therefore people living in remote areas can have access to financial services without leaving their village and by avoiding long waiting queues and troublesome travels.
In the summer of 2012, another group of NOVAFRICA student group members already went to Mozambique to work in the project. These students were responsible for the constitution of control and treatment groups, the implementation of the treatment and the data collection during this period.
On the 16th of June, I, Julia, Diogo P. and Diogo M. – members of the NOVAFRICA student group – left from Lisbon with destination Maputo. After 16 hours of travelling we finally reached Mozambique – with Maputo being a little light spot surrounded by total darkness. Inês, our field coordinator, welcomed us and together we arrived in a nice hostel situated at Av. Salvador Allende, a street parallel to the Av. Vladimir Lenine – that crosses with the Av. Eduardo Mondlane, where we, two weeks later, found our apartment.
During our stay, we trained different teams for the fieldwork that had to be done during the three months we were there. The aim was to collect new data about the people in the provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane that have been interviewed before, to measure the impact of the treatment on savings, consumption, investments, agriculture, housing, and remittances.
It was when we went off to the field – after two weeks of preparing the questionnaire and recruiting and training the teams – when I understood how incredible Mozambique is: the people, the smiles (and laughs), the smell, the incredible variety of green, the food (especially the bagias…!) – everything is familiar and unknown at the same time. It wasn’t that the former Lourenço Marques didn’t fascinate us, the esplanades, the street sellers that approached us with souvenirs in one hand and high-technology mobile phones in the other, the guys from which you can buy phone credit that sit on every street corner, the hustle and bustle in baixa with its constant flow of pedestrians and vehicles, the chapas going from one place to another, the long queues for the ATMs; nevertheless, it was in the rural areas where my curiosity was being satisfied and my work taking shape.
Finally, one year after the treatment, we hope to obtain significant results concerning the level of savings and the remittances sent between the migrants and their families in the rural areas. Once these remittances are being sent via mKesh, this transfer will be safer and less costly than the traditional methods.
Written by Mariana Tavares, student of Nova SBE and NSG member.