Cyclone Winston swept across the island nation of Fiji on 20 February 2016 – just under a year ago – flattening communities and killing more than 40 people. According to the government, Fiji’s worst-recorded cyclone left 350,000 people affected and an estimated 32,000 homes destroyed or damaged.
In the hours and days after Cyclone Winston, remittances via popular mobile money services like WorldRemit meant that Fijians could immediately and safely access funds from family and friends to cover basic essentials: blankets, food and shelter.
One year on, foreign aid in the wake of the disaster has died down, but remittances are continuing to rebuild lives and Fiji’s economy.
Longer-term, remittances are vital to the economies of developing countries like Fiji and can account for more of a country’s total GDP than that of foreign aid. According to estimates from the World Bank, the total value of remittances entering Fiji in 2015 was US $222 million, accounting for 5.1% of the country’s GDP.
Months after Cyclone Winston, Fijians around the world are continuing to inject millions directly into the country’s economy via remittances to family and friends. In 2015, people living in Australia sent an estimated US $79 million in remittances to Fiji, underscoring the role that remittances play in connecting Fijian migrants in Australia with their home country and family.
Online money transfer service WorldRemit launched its services in Fiji in November 2016. Known as the ‘WhatsApp of money’, the WorldRemit app enables customers in more than 50 countries to send remittances to friends and family in Fiji.
The services include cash pick up from Exchange Finance, UAE Exchange, Real Forex and Exchange World branches. In addition, mobile money and air time services are also available to send to Fiji, helping drive greater financial inclusion for communities on remote islands, where access to banking services is limited.