Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Tag: mobile banking

Nigerian Mobile Payments & Banking Starts

Last week I got a visit from Peter Afam Emeleogu, an old contact from TED Africa in 2007. We’ve both been busy in the intervening years, exploring how technology can be used to overcome inefficiencies in the system. Peter’s journey started when he realized the market value of mobile credit as a currency. In Nigeria, mobile payment systems weren’t licensed by the Nigerian Central Bank until December 2010, 2 months ago. So, until this time, mobile payment and transaction entrepreneurs had to be highly creative in order to meet consumer demands – thus the use of mobile credits as cash.

In December, 16 companies were given a provisional license to do mobile payments and banking. 6 of them are bank linked, and 10 of them are independent. A truly hot climate for mobile banking is emerging in Nigeria, where all players were forced to start at the same time, no matter their size or reach. Notably, only one mobile operator was included, MTN.

“only 21% (22 million people) of the adult population in Nigeria has a bank account, while 74% of the adult population (approximately 64 million people), have never been banked… Nigeria has proven a huge market for the adoption of mobile telephony. With almost 80 million mobile phone users.”

Peter is one of the principals for one of the ten independent companies who got a license, Eartholeum Networks, and it’s home to their QikQik product for mobile banking. They’ve had over $1m in investment to date, and like all of their competitors are scaling up as quickly as possible. Who ever executes fastest (and maybe best), and gets critical mass in the market, will win.

Some of the services that QikQik supports:

  • Person to person Transfer of funds
  • Payment for goods and services
  • Mobile phone can serve as POS Terminal
  • Cash withdrawal from ATMs
  • Purchase of airline tickets, bus tickets
  • Purchase of Telco recharge tokens and other e-tokens (PIN)
  • Tax payments and confirmation for Governments
  • Payment of bills
  • Internet payment identity/authentication
  • Payment of insurance premiums
  • Link existing bank accounts
  • Inward remittance of foreign exchange

One lesson from Mpesa’s success in Kenya is that you need to quickly reach critical mass with consumers, and that’s only done with a big investment in the agent network, making it easy for people to use the system.

Eartholium’s main focus is to enable third-party outlets such as post offices, retailers, petrol Stations, quick service restaurants, neighbourhood shops and pharmacies as QikQik Agents to perform functions such as customer due diligence for account opening, basic cash deposit and withdrawal in addition to transactional or payment services in areas where banks and other financial institutions do not have sufficient incentive or capacity to establish formal branches.

The race is on, and I’m very interested to see who will win this most populous and lucrative market in Africa.

Mobile Phone Quick Hits Around Africa

I find that there are more mobile phone projects going on in Africa than I can write about. Instead, here are some quick links for you to follow on the ones that I find the most interesting:

Mobile Phone with Money in Kenya

Mobile banking and payments

(Probably the most lucrative space in mobiles in Africa right now, it’s amazing it’s taken this long to really get started)

Canadian firm Redknee selected to supply Uganda Telecom with mobile money services.

Mxit (South African chat client) starts bridging the gap with mobile money. It uses Standard Bank’s MiMoney as an electronic payment voucher that can be purchased through self-banking channels and various retailers.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with the GSM Association, have announced a programme that will expand the availability of mobile banking services in the developing world. The Mobile Money for the Unbanked (MMU) programme, supported by a US$12.5 million grant from the foundation

Mobile health services

(This is all the rage now in the foundation and non-profit space)

50 case studies of mHealth projects, the majority of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, by the UN Foundation. (Download the 4.3Mb PDF)


Nokia and Adobe have announced a $10 million fund to develop Flash based applications for mobile phones. The new fund is a result of the Open Screen Project, an industry-wide initiative of more than 20 industry leaders set to enable a consistent experience for web browsing and standalone applications.

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