Digital payments in East Africa (Part I): Card payment alternatives

Card payment alternatives in Kenya by pesa-africa

Card payment alternatives in Kenya by pesa-africa

Kenya and East Africa are actively transitioning to cashless payments systems. East Africa’s economies are largely cash based informal economies with its associated costs. Challenges in aggregating national transaction data, consumer spending patterns, tax administration there is really no shortage of incentives.

With no means to track sales, little data is available, and channels are too fragmented for companies to forecast production and distribution with any degree of accuracy.
Niti Bhan

Policy makers, governments, central bankers and the private sector are looking to cash in on the benefits of culturing digital payments for the Kenyan market; a variety of emoney and digital currency payment options thrive in Nairobi – the capital.

Central Bank of Kenya data reveals a total of 10million cards in circulation as at January 2013 in the local card payments industry.

Here is a basket representative of card payment alternatives in Kenya. [Read more…]

FinTech Takes on East Africa

Introduction: Leapfrogging Sub Saharan Style

remittances

Leapfrog – is commonly associated with East Africa.  Sub Saharan Africa’s potential to overcome persistent challenges in novel ways abound in heaps –attributable to a convergence of forces i.e. a rapid technological boon and a resurgence of SSA development activity. As an example, the wild success of a simple communication tool, the mobile phone transformed traditional banking models and prompted thoughts on next generation financial services. SSA is poised to ride on technology rails and in a truly unique fashion leveraging technology to break down traditional barriers to financial access.

Bright B. Simons, on a past post for the Harvard Business Review

“In much the same way that Africa’s lack of significant telecom capacity was a boon rather than a hindrance to the emergence of mobile telephony, its lack of legacy infrastructure for everything ranging from waste management to energy utilities could provide the appetite — non-existent in the West — for genuinely transformative, future-friendly reconceptualization of the very notion of infrastructure”

Breaking Banks: Mobile Money Operators redefine financial services

Take financial services in East Africa which are increasingly offered through a simple communication tool, the mobile phone. The far reaching implications of fusing technology and financial synergies to address developmental challenges are of a grand scale. For the unbanked, access to financial services, credit, savings accounts, investment schemes and innovative financial products are now feasible en masse through last mile cellular network channels. [Read more…]

Pesabit #004 : Equity Bank & Safaricom Run Neck and neck over SIM Overlay

Safaricom Equity Bank Historical profit COmparison Chart

In the past 3 months, two juggernauts in Kenya have clashed over the introduction of SIM overlay technology into the market – Equity Bank Group (Bank) and Safaricom ltd (Telco).  Safaricom  Ltd.  the largest Mobile Network Operator in Kenya (67.9 % market share) while Equity bank is the largest bank by customer base (8 million +).

As the incumbent mobile financial services provider, Safaricom faces a direct threat to its dominant sway, MPESA from A controversial SIM overlay technology set to be introduced by Equity Bank into the market through its subsidiary Finserve. Equity bank made a strategic move in acquiring an MVNO license from the regulators, Communications Authority of Kenya. Through this license, Equity can venture into the cellular network business and more crucially, the mobile financial services business – MPESA’s turf.

By leveraging its proprietary ownership of the SIM, Safaricom has continued to lock out financial services firms from its service platform; effectively acting as gatekeeper. The trouble is

A single mobile device is not supposed to be restricted to a single service provider, especially when different service providers having the mutual business interest over a single mobile phone users

It is easy to see why it has been labeled a monopoly and followed by cries to open up their platform. The mobile phone is a clear winner as a form factor in East Africa. Knowing this, financial services firms have been itching to catch up after losing out years back to Telcos. [Read more…]

The Role of Regulators in Mobile Money Deployment

PREAMBLEmobile runner

Mobile Money (MM) is hailed for accelerating financial inclusion and its potential for reining in an even greater multitude of unbanked global citizens into the formal financial systems. To harness its potency, policy and regulatory environments hold the key to exhausting its potential. It falls within the domain of Telecommunications and Financial Regulators/ Central banks. Central banks have asserted their regulatory authority in more recent times as Mobile Money (MM) has emerged as a remedy for financial exclusion risk. Central Banks in developing countries, including Sub Saharan Africa, are keen on leveraging MM to further their cause.

First, it’s important to state that Central Banks in emerging economies have a vast and vested interest in the success of mobile payment services. Indeed, as mentioned above, mobile payment services can contribute directly to the economic growth of the country – GFG group

Regulating MM presents simultaneous challenges and profound benefits. Regulatory and policy objectives have to be balanced with sensitive competitive market dynamics. Restrictive regulation can stifle competition, innovation and market adoption.

The importance of policy and regulatory frameworks in mobile banking development has inspired empirical research reports on the subject  such as What Regulatory Frameworks Are More Conducive to Mobile Banking? – World Bank. A 2013 GSMA report, titled Mobile Money: Enabling regulatory solutions, broadly categorized aspects encompassing all pertinent areas of MM regulation. [Read more…]