During her recent visit to Tanzania, WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin saw how innovations in food assistance are helping to strengthen the local economy and streamline operations. Purchasing food locally for use throughout the region and electronic cash and food vouchers are two of the game-changing strategies she writes about in her latest blog from the field.
DAR ES SALAAM – Great things are happening in Tanzania for WFP. During my trip to Dar-Es-Salaam last week, our WFP team showed me that we have a lot to be excited about. For example, in 2012 WFP injected more than US$35 million into the local economy through our logistics operations and WFP purchased US$12.5 million worth of food from local markets to serve operations in Tanzania, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and South Sudan. I found that in almost every conversation I had with partners and government officials, they recognized that P4P has served as a catalyst to connect smallholder farmers to agricultural markets.
My meetings with President Jakaya Kikwete and Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda did not focus on what WFP could do to help the country, but how we can work together in the future to support regional responses. I am eager to further our partnership so that we can identify innovative solutions to improve the food and nutrition security throughout the region.
While I was talking to our team in Tanzania, Finance Officer Antonio Baez told me something that really caught my attention: in 2012 the Tanzania Country Office transitioned to working exclusively with electronic payments. By the end of 2012, the Country Office had processed 2, 938 payments –worth US$64 million – and 93 per cent of those were done using electronic payment systems.
On 16 September 2012, WFP joined the Better Than Cash Alliance. We committed to expanding our use of electronic cash and voucher transfers to beneficiaries by 40 per cent by 2014 and to paying all suppliers and employees via electronic payment methods where feasible. For us, this is just good sense: electronic payments facilitate the tracking of our financial flows and therefore reduce the possibility for fraud and the diversion of funds – meeting the requirements of our donors and allowing us to better serve our beneficiaries. This also benefits our partners as the processing time for each payment is reduced. In Tanzania, the team achieved a reduction of payment processing from 10.78 days to 3.3 days.
This is an achievement that we can replicate in every WFP office. As we continue to diversify how we deliver – including cash and voucher transfers - electronic payments will enable us to efficiently and effectively fulfil our commitments to those we serve. Finance Officers, Logistics Officers, and Programme Officers can all identify solutions to improve how we do business. You all have the knowledge and skills to improve our operations – and Antonio and his team have done just that.
Now that is something to be excited about.