opinionBy Dias Nyesiga
It was just a matter of seconds before Giovanni Higiro finished paying his fares to a motorcyclist, without touching his wallet.
As if they were exchanging numbers, Higiro was able to pay Claude Habineza by transferring money from his mobile phone Mobile Money account to the motorcyclist's electronic wallet.
Like Higiro, many people are now enjoying the new mobile banking products that now allow one to pay their bills and buy goods using their mobile phones. One can make payments of as little as Rwf100.
"It is simpler and I am not worried whether I have carried my ATM card or cash with me, my phone is handling all my financial transactions," a smiling Higiro says.
Accordingly, telecom operators work in partnership with the motorcyclists association, supermarkets and other merchants and they are given the merchants' wallets with access codes.
For example, the motorcyclists association code is 20123, so the customer can go to their phone, access Tigocash and enter the merchant's code and the money will be transferred to the association's wallet, from where the motorcyclist will be able to claim for it.
"We reduce the cost of transferring money by removing some of the most commonly felt pain points," Tongai Muramba, the head of Tigocash at Tigo Rwanda, says.
The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), an association of mobile operators worldwide, indicates that Rwanda has one of the fastest growing Mobile Financial Services (MFS) industries in the world.
Experts say such a move in electronic payments is likely to harness efforts to boost the cashless economy the Government embarked on improving last year by improving its payment systems.
"We believe the answer is in keeping on introducing more and more people to Tigocash and explaining its benefits," Muramba notes.
Experts say this is possible with the help of state-of-the-art technology that enables customers to access their wallets, anywhere at any time, while ensuring their (wallets) maximum protection.
For example, a parent who wants to pay school fees may need to travel a long distance to town to make payments and then travel again to show proof of payment to the school.
"It is helping us to have parents pay fees for their children in time and has also reduced excuses of delays due to lack of time to go to the bank," Fred Katungi, a teacher in Remera explains.
"But remember that affordability is just one of many benefits we offer. Others include security, convenience and accessibility," Muramba adds.
Nevertheless, the transaction charges are still high for most users who are transacting smaller amounts of money using Mobile Money.
"The only problem may be the charges because if operators cannot reduce them, people will still have no option but to carry their cash," Ildephonse Ufitingufu, an airtime dealer, says.
But telecom operators - Tigo and MTN - who are currently providing mobile banking services, say they will continue to rollout cost-friendly products to provide better options for all.
Again, users are assured of security for their money on their mobile phones even when they lose their phones, another move that is likely to help market Mobile Money products in the country.
The system ensures that only the owner of the account has access to the wallet by ensuring that the correct PIN (a 4 digit secret code known only by the account holder) is put into the menu.
"We are always reminding our customers that they should be protective of their secret PINs in order to ensure that their money is protected," Muramba says.
Most of the common Mobile Money transactions include buying airtime, sending money, purchasing Cash Power, paying school fees, buying goods and paying for weekly memberships for most voluntary savings groups.