By Eben Mabunda
On September 9, Africa’s largest mobile network operator by subscribers, the MTN Group, announced a partnership with Africa’s leading payments technology start-up Flutterwave, in an initiative aimed at facilitating digital payments across several African countries.
MTN’s bold move is indicative of the rapidly changing, stiffly competitive and scintillating African digital financial services landscape. Africa’s fintech space is a titillating one with so many moving pieces, characterised by gargantuan progress in mobile money, neo and challenger banking, notwithstanding cryptocurrency.
The MTN-Flutterwave deal
The enterprise will allow businesses integrating Flutterwave in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia to receive payments via MTN Mobile Money (MoMo), a platform which at the end of June this year, had 48.9 million active users and 581 514 merchants. MTN MoMo is a fintech platform providing consumers and businesses with an electronic wallet, enabling electronic transfers and payments as well as access to digital and financial services. Founded in 2016, Flutterwave is an African fintech company that provides payment infrastructure across the continent having raised US$35 million in funding 2020.
Africa’s mobile money landscape
Mobile cash transactions per day on a global scale exceeded US$2 billion last year and are expected to surpass US$3 billion a day by the end of 2022, GSMA reports. According to the GSMA, Africa will hit the half-a-billion mark of unique mobile subscribers this year and the continent will reach 50% subscriber penetration by 2025. Sub-Saharan Africa alone boasted more than 45% of the world’s mobile money accounts with the number of account holders exceeding half a billion by last year.
Activities of significant players
Five months ago, Mastercard invested US$100 million in Airtel Mobile Commerce BV (AMC BV) — the mobile money business of telecom Airtel Africa. This was two weeks after it received US$200 million from TPG’s Rise Fund.
AMC BV is an Airtel Africa subsidiary and the holding company for several of Airtel Africa’s mobile money operations across 14 African countries, including Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria. The mobile money arm operates one of the largest financial services on the continent, providing users access to mobile wallets, support for international money transfers, loans, and virtual credit cards.
The originators of the Mobile Money concept, and the owners of the M-Pesa brand, Safaricom secured the first license in Ethiopia’s 110 million markets in May this year, paving the way for the introduction of M-Pesa, in 2022, once cleared by the Ethiopian authorities. The move will help cement M-Pesa’s position on the continent and add to its 48 million subscriber base. In early 2020, Vodacom & Safaricom completed the acquisition of the M-Pesa brand from Vodafone Group through a newly created joint venture, giving both Vodacom and Safaricom full control of the M-Pesa brand, product development, and support services as well as the opportunity to expand M-Pesa into new African markets.
Orange Money is the mobile money service of Orange SA, available in most of the group’s affiliates in Africa.
Despite the mobile money restrictions in Zimbabwe which were a feature of the second half of 2020, Econet’s EcoCash closed 2020 with 5,6 million subscribers and over 90% of Zimbabwe’s mobile money users. In Botswana’s Mascom, MyZaka Mobile Money, allows subscribers to transact over their mobile phones. There remains much ground to be covered for Ecocash and MyZaka and perhaps using a uniform name could boost the service and the brand toward expansion elsewhere on the continent.
The next two years spell a swift transformation in Africa’s digital financial services terrain driven by mobile money and other fintech services and will see an avalanche of investment funding and a permanent rearrangement of the African banking space.
- Mabunda is an analyst and TV anchor at Equity Axis, a leading financial research firm in Zimbabwe. — firstname.lastname@example.org