West Africa Switches on Mobile Money: Headlines for June 22, 2010

Writing on the CGAP Microfinance Blog, my colleague Sarah Rotman sends us a Dakar Dispatch: Mobile money and financial inclusion….

Orange Money is now active in Côte d’Ivoire, Sénégal and Mali. MTN Mobile Money is available in Côte d’Ivoire and Benin. Société Générale is on the verge of offering some type of branchless banking service in Sénégal. Zain is preparing to launch Zap in Burundi. All three mobile operators are knocking on the central bank’s door in Madagascar. And there are three technology companies (in Sénégal, Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso) that have been given the approval of the regional central bank (the BCEAO) to function as electronic money issuers. It is clear that the subject of branchless banking is on the minds of policymakers in Francophone Africa.

Africa has been the epicenter of mobile money for the mass market, but Asia may dominate. So says Gartner:

Mobile payment technology continues to rapidly gain ground around the world, with Gartner Inc. projecting 55% more mobile payment users this year than in 2009. Gartner said the biggest growth areas for mobile payments are not developed areas like the U.S., but in places like the Middle East and Africa. Users in the latter regions rely on simpler technology, such as Short Message Service or texting.

More about the global projections at Finextra.

We’ve been saying for awhile that mobile money will be less compelling in places where good alternatives to cash already exist, for example, in developed markets such as North America. Despite that, the folks who look after how payments get cleared has opened a door for mobile (NACHA ACH Rule Anticipates Widespread Use Of Mobile Payments):

Mobile payments have yet to take off domestically, but NACHA is positioning the automated clearing house network to play a prominent role, if and when they do. The Herndon, Va., electronic payments association said last week that in May its members had approved a new rule for classifying ACH debit transactions initiated via mobile channels. Consumers, billers and their banks already have been performing and authorizing ACH payments using mobile devices but NACHA had not specifically addressed how such transactions should be classified.

Finally, if you are running a business of any sort that a)focuses on reaching poor people and b)is focused on Latin America, it’s well worth your time to read this announcement from the Inter-American Development Bank: Corporate Leaders Program for Success in Majority Markets….

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is now offering a unique new program designed especially to help private sector businesses achieve long-term commercial success and corporate leadership in designing new business models for the base of the pyramid in Latin America and the Caribbean.


-Jim Rosenberg

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