The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Telecom Companies Battle Shifts to Money Transfer

As telecoms carry on to explore avenues to beat competition in both subscription numbers and revenue volumes, the battle has been shifted to mobile money services.

Rwandan telecommunication operators have now locked horns in Mobile Money Transfer, as they try to cash in the rapidly changing sector. Competition among the country's telecom firms has been tense over the past year, with a price war waging.

TIGO Rwanda, a subsidiary of Luxembourg based Millicom International Cellular, began the mobile money payment platform mid-last year and has since registered over 260,000 subscribers with 700 agents operating across the country.

"With Tigo Cash, a customer can be able to send and receive money, buy airtime and also purchase cash power- the later (airtime and cash power) are absolutely free of charge," TIGO's Marketing Manager, Nina Ndabaneze said in an interview with Business Times.

According to official statistics published in the Central Bank's Monetary Policy and Financial Stability Statement, both operators have a combined 697,497 transactions, transferring Rwf7.9 billion for the first eleven months of 2011.

Recently, MTN, with operations in Africa and Middle East partnered with a global money transfer giant, Western Union, to enable mobile phone users to send or receive money across borders using their handsets.

However, the service is yet to be officially launched by the Rwandan operator.

Ndabaneze disclosed that Millicom, Tigo's parent company has also signed a global agreement with Western Union and the partnership has already been put to work in its Latin American Tigo operations.

Commenting on when the operator would unveil a similar service to its clients in the coutnry, Ndabaneze stated, "TIGO Rwanda doesn't have a timeline at this stage that they can share. We hope to be the first one to bring this service to Rwanda."

The new entrant Airtel Rwanda is set to launch its mobile money services in the first half of this year.

Bharti Airtel becomes the third operator after MTN Rwanda, which has 2,892,827 subscribers and TIGO Rwanda with 1,553,367.

About Rwf45 billion has been moved through the 'mobile money transfer facility since MTN Rwanda introduced the service.

Head of Mobile Money at MTN Rwanda, Albert Kinuma recently told Business Times that the telecom giant had made tremendous progress in its mobile money services.

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