Mobile Money Conference set for Nairobi on the 2nd and 3rd

By Jessica Colaço
  Published 17 Feb 2011
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Mobile money, commonly referred to as M-Money, has transformed lives in the developing economies and now is catching up in the West. Kenya has been trend setter in this category with the largely successful award winning M-Pesa platform from Safaricom. Mobile money platforms have changed the way to do business with shift from ‘cash only’ only culture to virtual money one. People can now trust moneyless transaction and gotten the ordinary man on the street fully utilize his mobile phone. Kenya, as much as other African countries, have had a ‘cash under the mattress’ culture that these new technology has rendered irrelevant if not archaic. At first skeptical about the new technology, the ordinary mwananchi has fully embraced the money transfer and in the process finding that mobile phones can do more than just text and make calls. M-Pesa, the flagship and arguably the global case study of money transfer, has had to weather cultural suspicion, battle government red tape and traditional banking competition to move extremely colossal amounts of money annually. Figures from Safaricom show that Kenyans moved billions of shillings in the last year.

Buoyed by success of M-Pesa, software writers were back with newer programmes that leveraged on the money transfer system. M-Kesho an application that interfaces once bank account and his mobile phone account was one f the products. Other products have been m-bills (paying bills with mobile phones), m-ticketing (paying of airline and bus ticket with mobile money) and finally the newest kid on the block, m-Visa (the international visa card topped up by mobile money). Struck by the mobile money blow, banks have belatedly woken up to the old saying of if you can’t beat them join them. Equity Bank has partnered with M-Pesa and M-Kesho. It has also partnered with Orange’s Iko-Pesa for Agency banking and yu-cash. Other banks such as KCB, Barclays, and Cooperative Bank have launched various products intended for mobile wallet. The Aitec Mobile Banking 2011 will be taking stock of the advancements in the mobile money industry in various fields. Starting with the backbone of the developing economies agriculture, we see how farmers are reportedly having efficient delivery and payment systems. Delivery of goods can be linked to an instant invoicing and subsequent payment of the same. This process has cut lots of man hours lost in the previously long and cumbersome process. In the microfinance industry, Aitec mobile banking will be looking how such products like Kopesha utilizes mobile phone technology to manage their loan portfolios. Loanees have been empowered to pay using their mobile wallet of nearest pay points (like PesaPoint) will make them spend less time away from their enterprises thus increase productivity. Field Officers can keep track of the loan status through SMS queries. Similarly, loanees and clients can track their loan repayments, savings and loans through SMS. This has greatly impacted positively on the whole MFI subsector. According to pre-conference white paper by Elizabeth Galpin of PayG Solutions the billing subsector, instead of metre readers being equipped with specialist devices, utility companies could run an application on their handsets, providing lists of meters to be read fir the day and allowing data entry. This would then generate bills that would be sent to the clients’ mobile phone instantaneously. The pre-conference by Ms Galpin also highlights other uses of mobile phones other than financial systems. “It can be used in health systems where workers can maintain patient records when conducting records in rural areas,” she writes. A centralized health system hosted with a cloud based environment provides an opportunity for healthcare to store enormous amount of data in a secure and easily accessible media. A comprehensive database of patient information would provide a wealth of knowledge about diseases, epidemics and trends. To fully fund and develop this system would definitely require government backing, but would result in a system that would be the envy of the world, including developed countries where centralized healthcare records are still not available for all practitioners to view. Finally, there are so many more examples where mobile technologies engines hosted within a cloud-based environment can completely revolutionise developing countries (and developed markets may want to sit up and listen as well). There is room for smart phones too - especially where there is a need for GPS (meter readers or a requirement to pinpoint the location of the business or customer) or a more sophisticated user interface, but they are more expensive, less robust and have a greater chance of being stolen. Aitec mobile Banking Conference will provide an apt avenue for industry specialists to discuss the fast developing mobile money sub-sector. Mobile phones have truly become the (very) portable computers written about by previous generations of Science Fiction writers. Their contribution to business, economic development and a means of making a social impact on developing countries will continue to grow in innovative and exciting ways. Blog post by: Collins Nabiswa
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