UNCDF Supports Digital Economic Development in Samoa

Today, more than ever, digital technologies, ICT and digital literacy play an important role in increasing access and usage of affordable financial products and services.

In the Pacific, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased consumer demand for efficient and safe digital payment solutions, with private and public stakeholders joining hands to accelerate development.

The benefits include being able to transact in the comfort of one’s home, farm, local market, business and ordering goods online and receiving them at one’s doorstep, to name a few.

But there are also challenges with infrastructure, policy and regulation, and consumer uptake of digital payment solutions, as highlighted in a new UN Capital Development (UNCDF) report on e-commerce in the Pacific.

In an effort to develop digital economies in the Pacific region, the UNCDF has partnered with Samoan Fintech and geospatial company, SkyEye Pacific, to roll out a digital marketplace, based on addressing delivery systems and payment gateway called the Maua App.

Launched in 2019, Maua is a fully fledged one-stop e-commerce platform in the form of a mobile application that allows Samoans, including diaspora communities, to trade local produce, food, handicrafts, groceries, pharmacies, hardware, electronics and services online.

Maua is a trusted platform with the capability that meets people’s needs even in the absence of physical registered addresses.

The Pacific Digital Economy Programme, funded by the Australian government and administered by UNCDF, UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), is at the forefront of these efforts.

Launched in September 2021, the main objective of the partnership is to support the development of innovative digital e-market and payment platforms to bring services within the reach of low-income households.

This includes improving access to domestic, regional, and global markets for MSMEs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused economic decline across the region. Currently, Maua has 45 active vendors with over 1,500 transactions recorded per month.

According to UNCDF, leaving no one behind in the digital era means having equal access to markets using digital platforms like the Maua app.

In a recent UNCDF-Kapronasia webinar on September 14, Sky Eye Pacific Co-founder and CEO, Faasootauloa Sam Saili, highlighted the need for partnerships to address digital ecosystem development not only in Samoa but the Pacific region at large.

The other panelists alongside Saili included Ariff Ali, Governor, Reserve Bank of Fiji; Tessa Price, Pacific Regional Executive, ANZ Bank; Bram Peters, UNCDF Regional Manager Pacific; and Zennon Kapron, Director, Kapronasia.

Saili called on all stakeholders especially governments, development partners and banks to work together to integrate fintech’s, and mobile network operators to create consumer-friendly and seamless payment methods to support a cashless economy.

Saili said a cashless economy would promote resilience and sustainability, while helping Pacific Islanders adapt better to externals shocks such as a pandemics or natural disasters.

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