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Vodafone announces M-Pesa service for HIV positive Basotho

Vodafone announces M-Pesa service for HIV positive Basotho

Vodafone's M-Pesa mobile money service is being utilised in Lesotho to assist HIV patients in the country according to an announcement by the company on World Aids Day.

The Vodafone Foundation says the programme which was developed with the Lesotho Ministry of Health combines Vodafone's M-Pesa mobile money service with travelling clinics and a smartphone app designed for healthcare professionals which enables the tracking of patients in remote areas.

Andrew Dunnett, Vodafone Foundation Director says the service is most needed in Lesotho and will make a lasting impact there.

"HIV is an immense health care crisis for the people of Lesotho. This pioneering Vodafone Foundation programme will ensure that thousands of mothers and young children in some of the poorest communities in the world receive the care and support they need."

The travelling clinics use a fleet of 4x4 vehicles to provide on-site HIV testing in remote and mountainous areas and when people are identified as HIV positive, they are immediately registered with the M-Pesa mobile money service. The patients also receive the M-Pesa funds needed to pay for transportation to a treatment centre according to the Vodafone Foundation.

"At the same time, their details are recorded - via mobile - on a central database so that their future treatment and care can be planned and recorded. These details can then be recalled in real time by healthcare professionals in the field using a smartphone app produced by the Vodafone Foundation and Vodacom Lesotho." added the Vodafone Foundation which also revealed that the programme is specifically oriented towards pregnant women, mothers and young children who are among the most vulnerable groups in Lesotho society as they are less able to walk many hours to the nearest HIV clinic.

Wider roll out

The Lesotho government has welcomed the outcomes from the roll-out in only two of the ten districts in Lesotho according to today's announcement. The government is said to have now committed to integrating the programme within the country's primary healthcare strategy and beyond Maseru and Leribe districts from the middle of 2017.

The costs of the programme will be fully funded by the Lesotho government from that time going forward.

Ian Ferrao, former Managing Director of Vodacom and now CEO at Vodacom Tanzania led the introduction of M-Pesa in Lesotho. He told ICT consultancy Balancing Act in September 2013 that Vodacom adopted a more aggressive approach after taking learnings from other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa where Vodacom launched M-Pesa.

"[We] delayed the launch to get the distribution right. We had to get our distribution agents on board and get them to understand the value of driving registrations. Being a small country, word of mouth is incredibly powerful. Once we reached the tipping point, we've had to move fast to keep up. The first 30,000-40,000 were incredibly difficult. We had to send Vodacom staff out into each district. After that, it began to climb to its present level. As you would expect, growth is beginning to slow down," noted Ferrao in his assessment of the M-Pesa launch in Lesotho.

Mpho Brown, Corporate Affairs Manager at Vodacom Lesotho pointed ITWeb Africa to growth in the uptake of M-Pesa since it was launched more than three years ago.

"M-Pesa in Lesotho was launched in July 2013 and we now have near a million registered accounts, nearing Vodacom Lesotho’s entire customer base of 1.2 million, and of this registered base, over 600 thousand customers are actively using the service."

Brown also confirmed the plan to implement the HIV initiative in more of Lesotho's districts.

"There are plans to expand the program in Lesotho to other districts as we continue to get more positive outcomes in the two initial districts. There are no immediate plans to replicated the program across the region; however, this model was adopted from a similar Vodafone programme in Tanzania targeting maternal health that utilized the technology in a similar way to address challenges there."


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