If you’ve been following recent events, over US$700,000 was raised for the Westgate Mall attack victims through the Mobile Money service M-Pesa within 76 hours through the WeAreOne campaign. This reflects not only how Africans rely on their mobile phones for connectivity but also one of the massive benefits Mobile Money is bringing to the continent.
It’s no surprise that most of the new tech startups and innovations are centred around mobile technology. Mobile Money is one of the innovations in developing countries that seems to have taken deep root. With much of the population living away from urban centres, bankless branching is a much needed asset among the people. Mobile Money is an excellent means of adopting this, seeing as mobile penetration is above 90% overall in the continent.
One of the panelists at Mobile Monday, Chrissy Martin, explained how mobile money is unique to it’s operating region. Using M-Pesa as an example she demonstrated how its success cannot be replicated. Even though there are close to 200 Mobile Money businesses globally, 60% of all mobile money users remain in East Africa.
Marcus Achiume of Mobile Payment Solutions is a leading authority on Mobile Money in Zambia. He gave us an insight on the relationship between Mobile Money regulators, operators and the users.
Another panelist for the Mobile Monday session was Lelemba Phiri of Zoona who we saw earlier at the Social Good Summit in Lusaka. She shared the story of how their mobile money service came to be after an idea between two brothers. She also shared the integral values of the company and some of the stories of people’s who have had their lives and businesses changed through Mobile Money. An example of this was the owner of a soft drinks warehouse living in rural Zambia. Mobile money allowed him to quickly transfer his returns safely when purchasing new stock without him having to travel long distances and shutting down his business for a day. Such examples definitely highlight the necessity for mobile money in SME’s. Zoona currently works with Kiva, a micro-lending platform to continue to make the dreams of these entrepreneurs possible just as crowdfunding made Zoona’s success possible.
The session followed with an interactive discussion on the current challenges faced by Mobile Money users. A strong point brought out was that despite branchless banking being designed for places without access to banking systems, the system still doesn’t have enough reach. One of the ironies of the situation is that many of these mobile money cash points are located in town centres just a short walk from an ATM service. A village headman who was seated in at the Mobile Monday session expressed the diffrent services offered by different companies weren’t exactly living up to their expectations in rural areas. He has been exploring which Mobile Money Services would be best for service workers to collect salaries in his village but each had their faults; lack of availability, lack off signal, and requirements to provide documents which other services didn’t request for.
From the discourse that evening, we can take that there’s still a lot of work to be done with Mobile Money and there is also a lot of room for improvement and innovation. The business potential for Mobile Money is yet to be fully explored but as long as we address the current issues we’re facing with reach and encourage more people to use it we will surely see it integrated into more areas of society.
So, what’s your view on the future of mobile money in Zambia?