In the Western World the idea of mobile banking/payments starts with our smartphones.  Our chief concern usually centers around privacy and security.  In the emerging World, especially Africa, mobile banking/payments are quite different and the concerns are quite different as well.  I recently talked to MMIT COO – Kim Fraser about the unique concerns and problems that face mobile wallet users in Africa:

AB: First of all thank you for taking the time today to meet with me Mr. Fraser.  I was hoping you could elaborate on the issues faced by mobile wallet users in Africa?

Kim: Thank you, and yes I can definitely speak on that.  In the west traditional banking services are universally accessible to a majority of the population through the use of ATMs, credit cards and debit cards. In Africa and other emerging markets banking services are not so universally widespread and accessible to the majority of the population. This is due to a number of factors such as the high cost of brick and mortar establishments, account opening criteria with the need for credible references, and relatively high initial deposit requirements, minimal balances, high transactional fees, cash based salary payment for many low end wage earners, etc.

In the west most mobile wallets or mobile phone banking products are based on the use of credit cards, and debit cards. They store the users card details on the phone. In developed markets most users of mobile phone technology are aware of the constant problem of identity theft in the mobile phone industry and the underground business that surrounds this activity such as illegal phone shops. Thus many view this as a security issue and an avenue for the theft of their financial details and the impending havoc it can create in ones life.

In Africa and the emerging markets with high rates of poverty the percentage of the population that is banked and using credit cards and debit cards is very small. Mobile banking in its original state, as introduced in Kenya by Safaricom (M-pesa), was not intended to target the banked but the unbanked, those that have no bank account, and no credit facilities. In this market segment the issues around adoption are different. Security is a concern but it does not revolve around identity theft but instead around the risk of carrying physical cash as opposed to carrying virtual cash, which is seen as safer. Also transaction fees for mobile banking are lower than brick and mortar banking fees, there are no minimal account balance barriers, and signing up for a mobile wallet/ bank account normally doesn’t require two reputable references that are already clients.  All it requires is a photo ID, and your phone number, and can be done at any of the mobile banking agent outlets.  Today there are 30,000 M-pesa agent outlets in Kenya and everywhere there is mobile phone service.

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AB: So really the perspective is totally different in Africa than in the West?

Kim: Yes, in Africa and other emerging markets most of the population perceive such services from a totally different perspective than in the west.  It is a game changer and an enabler not a convenience factor such as is the case in the west, where a larger percentage of the population carry smart phones and have credit, debit and ATM cards.

AB: Thank you Kim for your time and knowledge and remember you can follow Kim and MMIT at http://www.mmitonline.com.

MMIT COO – Kim Fraser

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