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'Mobile money not the only other option in Sub Saharan Africa'

By , Journalist
Africa , 23 Apr 2015

'Mobile money not the only other option in Sub Saharan Africa'

Mobile money platforms may have taken root in Sub Saharan Africa but they are not the only innovation disrupting the financial services sector in the region, with new technology based finance platforms also seeing rising uptake, experts say.

Accounts held with mobile money platforms now outnumber accounts held with banks in countries such as Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Cote d'Ivoire as well as Somalia, experts at mobile money and research advisory firm, Mondato said in a report this week.

However, Frost and Sullivan said on Wednesday that other payment platforms that are not mobile are also gaining popularity. The research company cited Bitcoin as one of the technology based platforms likely to pose competition for mobile money platforms.

"The market is ripe for disruption from a Bitcoin-like currency, especially in markets with minimal regulation," said Frost and Sullivan.

The report by Mondato said Nigeria was an example of a market where financial inclusion was fast developing without significant development in mobile money usage. It said "barely 2% of Nigerians have a mobile wallet, and yet 44% now have an account at a finance institution".

While mobile money has stepped in to fill the gap of declining bank account holders in Zimbabwe, developments suggest that "mobile money is not the only game in town".

"With a Bitcoin type currency, the deposits aren't guaranteed by a central bank and are not protected by any legislation. In addition, any transfer made using the Bitcoin general ledger purpose, the Block Chain, is free," said Mark Simoncelli, global director for growth implementation solutions at Frost and Sullivan.

However, despite the emergence of other technology based platforms in the payments and financial services sector in Sub Saharan Africa, "joint ventures between financial service providers and mobile operators" are seen dominating the market in the next few years.

However, other experts say partnerships between mobile money operators – most of whom are mobile companies – and banks are still facing resistance. Mobile companies in Zimbabwe and other countries have been blamed for refusing to open up their platforms for integration with banks and other partners.

"Banks that will carve the most market share are the ones that will be able to innovate and organise themselves around customers, as opposed to products and channels," said Simoncelli.

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