No, I’m not going to talk about MPesa, you can read all about the Kenyan grandfather of mobile money here, here and here. Rather, let’s look at other key mobile money products across the rest of the continent, as well as some up-and-coming, ones-to-watch that will be demo’ing at DEMO Africa in Nairobi later this month.
1. Zimbabwe’s EcoCash
According to Econet, almost two-million Zimbabweans do all their business using EcoCash transfers and the service “moves millions of dollars every day from urban to rural areas” which has helped to “revitalise the rural economy.”
The one-year-old mobile money transfer service from Econet Wireless announced in August that it had linked with all the commercial banks in Zimbabwe. This extends the service to customers with bank accounts, allowing them to transfer money into the EcoCash electronic wallet. In addition, businesses will be able to take payments via EcoCash and have the money transferred into their bank accounts.
EcoCash also expanded to Lesotho in August this year.
2. Mozambique’s mKesh
Mkesh offers Mozambique’s unbanked a suite of financial services, such as saving and transferring money, without a traditional bank account. It was launched last year by financial institution Carteira Móvel, which is 70%-owned by the state mobile operator, Moçambique Celular (mCel). Customers sign up for free and their mobile number becomes their bank account number. According to the company, it doesn’t require a minimum balance and there are no service fees.
Paralleling MPesa and EcoCash, the service aims to broaden access to safe financial services across Mozambique, reducing the need for customers to travel far distances with cash, and allowing money to reach rural areas more easily.
3. Easywallet in Nigeria
Nigeria’s been a bit late to the mobile money market thanks to lack of clarity over the implementation of regulation around the licensing of mobile money providers. Telco Etisalat teamed up with FirstBank of Nigeria in February this year to provide mobile money services to Nigerian consumers. According to a company statement, the mobile money initiative is an important step towards the country’s goal of becoming one of the top 20 largest economies in the world by 2020.
Then in September Etisalat launched Easywallet, a SIM-based interface that allows customers to access their choice of mobile money and bank accounts. They can send and receive money, transfer money from a bank account to a mobile wallet, pay bills, buy goods and services, and top up airtime. The service is offered in conjunction with FirstBank, GTBank, Stanbic IBTC and Zenith.
Commentators point out that for mobile money to truly succeed in Nigeria, an extensive agency network needs to be established across the large country.
4. Kenya’s PesaPal
Unsurprisingly a host of services have sprung up around Vodacom’s runaway mobile money success, MPesa. One of these is PesaPal, which Forbes named one of the top 20 tech startups in Africa in February 2012. PesaPal closes the loop between MPesa and the internet, by allowing Kenyans to buy and sell online using MPesa, as well as Zap and credit cards.
The escrow service protects buyers and sellers by giving them a chance to verify goods and services before releasing funds. In addition, buyers can initiate a payment from their mobile handset without needing internet access.
New kids on the block
Another MPesa spin-off, CrowdPesa is currently in beta and offers a location-based mobile service to allow users to find their closest MPesa agent, financial institution or retail outlet. It also says it will give merchants a platform to attract and keep customers via location-based messaging.
IPay is a payments processing service and payment gateway that includes credit and debit cards, MPesa, Airtel Money and yuCash. It allows merchants to receive payments in-store and online. The service is currently live in Kenya with plans to expand to Uganda and across East Africa.
Lipisha allows small businesses to receive non-cash payments and micro-money, including, you guessed it, MPesa.
Finally OzinboPay is setting out to be the PesaPal for West Africa. It’s a mobile payment gateway that allows merchants to make and receive payments online and offline via mobile money. The service is currently operating in Ghana and plans to expand to Nigeria soon.
It’s no surprise that headway in the mobile money space is happening in Africa: a continent with staggering access to mobile telephony, and an equivalent lack of access to traditional banking. Indeed, for many, mobile is the main banking channel. Countries around the world, hailing a cashless society as something to aspire to, take note. The products and services are being built today in Africa.