Last October, Africas largest mobile operator MTN said that it would be launching its revolutionary Mobile Money service in Rwanda by the end of the year. Ok, so its over a month late – but better late than never for the people who previously didn’t have access to banking services. Let’s see what they’ll be getting.
Mobile Money is a service with a very specific remit – to bring banking services to the “unbanked”, those people who don’t have access to bricks-and-mortar institutions. This is far more common in rural areas of countries in Africa – you can easily end up with a situation where a persons nearest bank is several days travel away. So the majority of these people don’t have bank accounts, and don’t use any financial services.
This is where Mobile Money comes in. Even in these deep rural areas, mobile network coverage is far more common than banks – and mobile phone ownership is phenomenally high in many African countries. In areas where a computer is insanely too expensive to consider buying, a mobile phone is still a relatively cheap purchase. And so MTN is pushing a huge amount of resources into providing financial services through these phones.
What does Mobile Money do?
It allows mobile owners to store and transfer money, and pay for goods, without needing a bank account. MTN has deals in place with nine different banks, so it does the banking for you. Once you’ve signed up for Mobile Money, MTN will store your money in a mobile account for you. You can then access it on-line or through your mobile, and send or recieve money to other peoples accounts, or use the money to buy minutes for your mobile. You can also use your phone to pay for goods in shops that are Mobile Money authorised retailers – and there are A LOT of these. The only thing you need is a mobile device.
What we think?
The popularity and growth of Mobile Money is one of the big mobile success stories. The service is live and popular in a lot of different African countries including Uganda, Ghana and Cameroon. Other companies (including Vodafone) have been trying hard to get into the “unbanked” market. As the economic straits of these countries improve, and the populace gets access to better technological infrastructure, the companies that are in on the ground level stand to make phenomenal profits. It’s good to see an indiginous company having the kind of success at this stage that you’d usually attribute to one of the global brands.