Paying School Fees via Mobile Money in Benin 

Researcher: Claire Adida (UC San Diego), Ramesh Rao (UC San Diego)
Location: Benin

Project Description

School Fees

Researchers aim to address the current obstacles of remittance receipt and distribution by providing a system of direct remittance for secondary school fees. In developing countries, remittances play an important role as an informal insurance scheme for individuals and households. Individuals migrate in search of economic opportunity, and send part of their improved earnings home. Among other things, remittances have been shown to improve access to public services, provide insurance against income shocks and increase agricultural productivity.

This project trials the use of mobile technology to allow users to send remittances to secondary schools rather than individuals, at low cost as well as remotely, privately and directly to address well-documented obstacles that impede remittance flow. The project will be implemented at a high school in Kalale in Northeastern Benin, a district with high poverty rates and an active network of hometown associations across the county whose members are motivated to invest at home.

The research team has completed a field trip to investigate the pilot site. They met with the school board, various key government officials, representatives of the teachers unions, the High Authority for Regulation and the mobile money executives from the country’s top two mobile phone companies: MTN and Moov. The team received critical buy-in and enthusiastic feedback from a wide variety of players. The project is now at the fundraising stage, seeking funds to develop the application and implement it in the pilot village.

On successful completion of the pilot, the researchers intend to scale up the intervention to the national – and even cross-national – level where the technology could be adapted for other types of direct transactions. Addressing and resolving the factors that impede optimal levels and use of remittances carries important implications for poverty alleviation and growth.