London — In the first four months of operation, from March to June 2007, M-Pesa, the mobile phone enabled payment system set up by Safaricom in Kenya, gained 150,000 customers. By December 2007, just before conflict erupted over the elections in December 2007, it had achieved 1 million customers who had made US$7 million in transactions. By January 2008, it had gained 1.6 million customers. This is the breakthrough moment for mobile-enabled cash transaction services, writes Russell Southwood.
Strangely, the tragic circumstances of post-election violence in Kenya seemed to encourage the use of the service as ATMs ran out of cash and travelling across town to a bank became a riskier proposition. But as Kenya returns to normality, it will be the payments made in more normal times - things like wages to casual staff - that will begin to weigh in the balance.
But Vodafone's plans to roll-out M-Pesa in neighbouring Tanzania were pipped at the post this week by Zantel. Vodafone's service is already also available in Afghanistan under the slightly amended name of M-Peisa. To be launched next week, Zantel's money transfer service is to be called Z-Cash.
Orascom's Naguib Sawiris - never a man slow to spot an opportunity - this week announced that his company would offer Internet banking services to its 70 million customers: "It's not something that I'm starting from scratch. I have the subscribers. They were just doing e-mail, [text message] and voice. Now I'm going to tell them you can use this for banking." Perhaps less original and life-changing than M-Pesa but nevertheless a shift in how money transactions get done.
This week sees the publication of "M-Money - Finances, Banking and Payments through Mobile Phones" , a 100+ page report which has some of the first detailed market research into the attitudes of potential African customers and how they handle both national and international remittances.
The report includes:
• Case studies of the pioneering services: The report provides full case studies of four fully operational M-money services: Globe Telecom's G-Cash and Smart Communications' Smart Money, both in the Philippines; Wizzit in South Africa; and M-Pesa in Kenya. In addition, there are many smaller mini-case studies of services that have been launched in Africa and elsewhere in the world.
• User research findings: The report provides national sample surveys for three major markets - Ghana, Kenya and South Africa - which provide remarkably consistent findings in key areas. A key element of the research looks at how national and international remittances are made and how many people receive them. There is also additional research from a range of other African countries that help pin down the likely potential of M-money services.
• User experience and customer business model interface: The report looks in detail at: how M-money services of different kinds can be delivered; different approaches to delivery (partners vs go-it-alone); different technologies that might underpin its development (for example, near field communications); and the business models and market segments.
• How regulatory issues can be tackled: When banking meets the mobile world, two different sets of regulatory environments collide. The report provides a detailed section on how banking and financial requirements can be met and the implications for both the operator and consumer of these kinds of transactions.
Balancing Act's M-Money - Finances, Banking and Payments through Mobile Phones, is over 100 pages long and has 7 charts, 16 tables of statistical data, 2 graphic maps and 12 illustrations. If you've not worked out how to do M-Money services this year, you may be the one who's missing out next year.
For details, go to: http://www.balancingact-africa.com/publications.html
For an extract that contains a detailed table of contents with a full list of the charts, tables and maps, send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The report is priced as follows: Full price (Africa) - GBP290/US$580; Full price (Rest of the World) - GBP350/US$700; Reduced price for universities and NGOs - GBP250/US$500. Click below to order: