Mobile wallet provider expands offerings for social assistance recipients

By Paige McCartney

Senior Business Reporter

Guardian Business

Having now expanded its merchant offerings to include AML Food Markets, Kimani Braithwaite, chief operating officer of mobile wallet provider Kanoo, said the company is making it easier for Bahamians, especially those on government assistance, to conduct safe digital transactions.

The company announced its partnership with AML Foods Limited last week, allowing customers who download the Kanoo app to pay for purchases using their mobile phones.

Braithwaite said the platform levels the playing field because it potentially removes the stigma of being a recipient of assistance from the government.

“One no longer has to use the entire assistance; in other words, you would usually receive a piece of paper, you would have to exhaust whatever is given to you, and at that point, it’s over with. With the Kanoo platform, you can now use a portion of your assistance and in more than one location; so, we truly see it as adding more value,” he said during a demonstration of the app last week.

“A lot of these people that we are assisting come from various areas of our community, and invariably, some of these people have to leave the confines of their community to go into other communities where you may find a Solomon’s or Super Value to receive assistance. By empowering businesses, we are doing great things with smaller businesses in the communities. For example, there are food stores that are on Augusta Street, there are food stores on Balfour Avenue, and people who live right next to these food stores have to traverse past these food stores to get assistance. They are now able to get up and patronize and support the food stores in their communities, and that assists in driving business within their community and better service and better options for them.”

After running beta testing last year, the Department of Social Services engaged digital wallet providers to manage its social safety net program, titled Promise, which now allows for the digital disbursement of assistance coupons.

Jaimie Humes, case aide in the department assigned to the project, said it has made the process run a lot more smoothly, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic where offices have been closed, and social distancing protocols must be adhered to.

“The Department of Social Services has begun to engage in digital services, so what does that mean for us? We’ve engaged digital wallet providers to handle our services. Those services may assist with rent or food at this time. By transitioning, it allowed for our clients to not have to deal with paper coupons or come into the office to collect their cards or the prepaid cards,” she said.

“So, we are now engaging Kanoo into our food pay program, and it provides our clients to use the digital gift card at any one of the selected merchants. One of the opportunities for our clients is that it continues to provide dignity; clients can come into a store, they can continue to shop, and when they reach the cashier, they can provide their phone with the digital gift card on it. No one can see that this is a recipient of social service assistance; no one looks at that client any differently.”

Given the changes in doing business over the past year, Senior Business Development Manager of AML Foods Melissa Major said the company is excited to bring on the new feature.

“First of all, it’s very convenient, it’s safe, and we all know that sometimes you may leave your bag in the car or you come to the grocery store, and you don’t have enough cash, so you can always pick up your phone and call someone and say top me up. You would never leave your phone anywhere; we are at that stage where we take our phones everywhere,” she said.

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