South African fashion chain Mr Price recently launched a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), becoming the first retailer in the country to do so. Essentially a MVNO offers mobile communication services without owning its own network infrastructure. MVNOs typically use the network infrastructure of an existing mobile operator to provide services to consumers under their own brands. Mr Price’s offering will piggyback on Cell C’s network.
MVNOs have yet to take off in Africa as they have done elsewhere in the world, but there is a slow movement towards adoption.
In Kenya, MVNO licences have been issued to three firms, one a subsidiary of Equity Bank, the country’s largest financial services provider. The bank plans to use its network to offer mobile banking solutions to customers.
Mobile money keeps growing
The drive towards making mobile money even more accessible is continuing. Interoperability has been an ongoing theme for much of the year, with calls for allowing individuals and businesses to move money to any mobile money account, regardless of what company that account is held with. Tanzania took the lead on this recently, with mobile money service providers Airtel, Tigo and Zantel partnering for a cross-network transfer service.
In Nigeria, where the uptake of mobile money has been relatively low compared to countries such as Kenya, mobile banking and payments firm eTranzact has invested US$350,000 in the PocketMoni 500 project in Kano and Ogun states, which aims to drive mobile money adoption through the education of both merchants and customers on the benefits of such services.
Mobile money is also making inroads in Sudan, where the Bank of Khartoum and telecoms company Zain has just launched the country’s first mobile money service – Hassa. Customers can make transactions using their phones, Bank of Khartoum ATMs or at Hassa shops. Only 15% of the Sudanese population has access to formal financial services.
Seeing potential in e-commerce
African companies are also betting on mobile to boost the continent’s e-commerce market. Sifiso Dabengwa, CEO of mobile network operator MTN, expects the rise in smartphone adoption to spur online shopping.
Read more at How We Made It In Africa