The hub will be launched in partnership with France’s Orange and other telecom services providers. Its aim would be to enable MTN leverage its 13-million active monthly users in 17 African states to evolve a pan-African mobile money ecosystem similar to China’s WeChat.
Mr Shuter further expressed MTN”s interest in creating a pan-African mobile money ecosystem that will serve Africa’s large unbanked population.
According to him, the capacity of existing players in the African payment system cannot sufficiently cater for the needs of the continent’s growing population except there is a collaboration that will reach across divides.
“For example, we have 70,000 merchants registered on our mobile money system across 14 markets, and 58,000 of them are in Ghana. WeChat, a prized asset of Naspers associate Tencent, is a messaging, social media and payments app with more than 1-billion active users. It’s become so deeply entrenched in that society that even street vendors and busking musicians prefer mobile payments to cash — an increasingly obsolete currency. We’re still at the very early stages of that because the ecosystem is still so underdeveloped,” Mr Shuter said.
He also highlighted a difference in technology type and target market.
“In Africa, the system runs mostly on basic handsets, and mobile operators act as issuers of financial services accounts, unlike their Chinese technology counterparts. China’s WeChat and Alipay are systems built for smartphones and a banked population,” he said.
To strengthen its capacity, MTN seems to be aiming at some interesting collaborations. As Mr Shuter himself said, they are looking to fill “a missing piece of infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa’s mobile money ecosystem.”
To achieve this, they are collaborating with other key players such as East Africa-focused M-Pesa, Zimbabwe’s EcoCash, MTN Mobile Money, Orange Money, Tigo Cash, Airtel Money and Ethiopia’s M-Birr. According to thee CEO, MTN aims to have 60-million mobile financial services customers by 2020, from 25.8-million at last count.
A major step towards achieving this aim is the launching of its mobile money services in South Africa and Nigeria in 2019.
Mobile Money is the Key to the Vault!
“If you get it right, it can become very material. Look at Tencent or WeChat — digital financial services players are not trading at six-times earnings like our industry; these are 10-to 20-times businesses. For us, it’s possible to get every market to 20% of revenue from mobile money, which has similar margins and almost no CAPEX,” Mr Shuter said.
This step is important for telecoms service providers as they face the prospect of a long-term decline in traditional voice revenues. The focus now is on digital and mobile data services which includes mobile money.
And that is a lot of difference.
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