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Mobile payments speed up in Africa

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At this year’s AfricaCom conference currently being held in Cape Town, Fundamo reported an accelerated growth of mobile financial services in Africa, with the company now supporting 27 mobile deployments across 19 African countries.

This year, Fundamo launched three new services FirstMonie with First Bank Nigeria in Nigeria and Celpay with Celpay International in Uganda and Zimbabwe. Fundamo now supports a total of 27 deployments in 19 countries across Africa. Fundamo’s success is testimony to the demand for mobile financial services driven by the needs of 647 million consumers in Africa that do not have a formal bank account (World Bank, 2012).

‚”Earlier this year the industry celebrated a decade of banking the unbanked. The market has transformed since we launched the world’s first mobile financial service in a developing economy with Celpay in Zambia. Mobile money providers are rapidly diversifying and consumers are demanding access to more sophisticated services,‚” said Hannes van Rensburg, CEO, Fundamo, a Visa company. ‚”One thing hasn’t changed Africa, the cradle of mobile financial services, continues to lead the world with a swath of new deployments in 2012.‚”

Spotlight on Nigeria

The Nigerian mobile financial services market is set for phenomenal growth. Only 38 per cent of the country’s 160 million people have access to formal financial services (Gallup and NOI-Polls, 2010). Meanwhile, there are more than 93 million mobile phone subscriptions in Nigeria, the most in Africa (GSMA, 2011). In September 2012, First Bank Nigeria launched FirstMonie in partnership with Fundamo. It is one of three deployments Fundamo powers in the market. FirstMonie is a pioneering mobile financial service for two reasons:

A recent survey by Fundamo and Visa, the Visa Mobile Money Study, revealed that consumers have sophisticated financial service needs that go well beyond the established transaction set offered by mobile money services today. For example, the majority of consumers surveyed in Nigeria intend to use mobile money to save money for their family (59%) and pay utility bills (58%). To meet this demand FirstMonie offers consumers a host of advanced services including utility payments (airline tickets, electric, insurance), cash withdrawal from an ATM without a bank card, and payment for goods at merchant locations.

FirstMonie is available to all mobile phone subscribers in Nigeria, regardless of their mobile network. It is one of the first interoperable cross-network mobile financial services in the world. It allows a consumer on one mobile network to send and receive money from a consumer on a different mobile network. The number one intended use of mobile money by consumers surveyed in Nigeria is sending money to a family member (86%).

Increased service provider diversification

Ten years ago mobile operators took the lead in offering mobile financial services to unbanked consumers in Africa. Today, mass consumer interest is driving demand from a range of new mobile money providers including banks and microfinance institutions. Nearly a third of the services Fundamo supports in Africa are delivered by providers other than mobile operators.

Earlier this year, Celpay International, a specialized mobile financial service provider, launched services in Uganda and Zimbabwe, powered by Fundamo. Celpay International provides mobile financial services to consumers and corporate customers. In Uganda, Celpay has partnered with mobile network operator Uganda Telecom, and in Zimbabwe it is working in partnership with several banks.

‚”The launch of services by Celpay International and First Bank Nigeria highlights the growing number of service providers competing to meet consumer demand in Africa,‚” said van Rensburg. ‚”A great deal of credit must go to governments across Africa which are driving the principles of financial inclusion and creating regulatory environments in which services like these can flourish as part of grander ‚’cashless society’ plans. We expect to see a host of exciting government schemes gain ground in the next year.‚”

The network effect

As mobile money services begin to mature and consumer demand for more sophisticated services increases, interoperability between services and the wider economy is critical to ongoing success. The Visa Mobile Money study found that 28 per cent of respondents cited a lack of interoperability with other mobile money services as a primary barrier to adoption. In response to this challenge, Visa has developed Visa Mobile Prepaid. This new product enhances the security, scale and interoperability of mobile money programs, while extending their payment functionality by enabling account holders to send funds to each other, send and receive international remittances, make purchases at merchants where Visa is accepted, or withdraw funds at a Visa ATM.

‚”Start small, think big, scale quickly has always been our advice to service providers. Within 18 months of service launch, consumers understand mobile money is easy to use and secure they trust it and start to use more sophisticated services‚”, said van Rensburg. ‚”The next step to drive growth is breaking down the walls between services and countries to foster a rich ecosystem that connect consumers in Africa to each other and the global economy.‚”

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Africa gets broadband boost

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ITU and Nexpedience, a supplier of proprietary point-to-multipoint broadband infrastructure, are partnering to bring broadband access to Africa.

Under the terms of the deal, Nexpedience will provide 180 new Expedience base stations worth USD 1 million, to be deployed in six nations across the continent. The first nation to benefit from the new infrastructure is Burundi, with deployments also planned for Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Mali, Rwanda and Swaziland.

Designed to withstand extreme meteorological conditions and capable of providing up to 32 kilometres of sector coverage, Nexpedience’s base stations have been specifically designed for rural deployment.

ITU’s Wireless Broadband Network in Africa project aims to develop and implement wireless broadband connectivity and applications that will provide free or low-cost digital access for schools, hospitals, and under-served populations in rural and remote areas Africa-wide.

At the signing of the agreement in Geneva, Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) emphasized the need to make developing countries part of the global broadband revolution: ‚”This partnership represents another important element in ITU’s efforts to bring broadband technology to the world even in the poorest nations. I am confident that this new partnership will accelerate broadband uptake right across the African continent, bringing the power of high-speed connectivity to users everywhere, from big cities to small villages.‚”

Kiriako Vergos, CEO of Nexpedience said: ‚”Giving access to broadband technology to underserved populations in Africa is of great importance to us. There are enormous benefits to be derived from a ‚’broadband-seed’ deployment strategy, and we decided to partner with ITU because we know that the organization has the team in place to get it done.‚”

ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Tour√© said the new agreement is a ‚”major step forward in getting Africa connected‚”. Dr Tour√© led the establishment of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010, which has the aim of putting broadband at the heart of the global development agenda.

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Nokia backs tech hubs for developing world

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Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev are collaborating with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America to act as scouts for local talent.

Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev, a global innovation program of the World Bank, have announced a collaboration with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America – a move that will empower these hubs to act as scouts and agents for local talent, fast-tracking their access to AppCampus funding.

AppCampus was established in 2012 as a mobile application accelerator program managed by Aalto University in Finland. With an 18 million euro joint investment between Microsoft and Nokia, the aim is to foster mobile application development on Windows Phone and any other Nokia platform.

The announcement earmarks part of that investment fund for twenty six awards per annum for the best mobile innovation ideas to be made via the mobile innovation hub network, starting with infoDev’s mobile application labs in South Africa, Kenya, Armenia and Vietnam, as well as mobile application laboratories in Egypt (TIEC), Nigeria (CC Hub) and Mexico. The value of each award ranges from 20,000 Euro (US$ 26,000) to 70,000 Euro (US$ 90,000) depending on the complexity of the solution or business model behind the idea.

‚”By working jointly with the mobile innovation hubs, we are able to connect more effectively with local developers in emerging markets and provide support in terms of funding, especially for locally relevant innovations,‚” says Pekka Sivonen, Head of AppCampus. ‚”Although the criteria to access the AppCampus funding remains the same, with ideas needing to be original, competitive and scalable, the advantage is faster processing and the mentorship provided by these innovation hubs.‚”

The hubs and mLabs will be responsible for scouting talent and vetting ideas to be submitted to the global pool. infoDev’s mLabs foster regional entrepreneurship, employment and competitiveness by providing open spaces where developers can find training, mentoring, technical expertise and access to financing. In a short time, mLab-supported startups have brought over 120 commercial apps to market The best new entries from this network will compete against each other each quarter for the available awards.

‚”Nokia, working closely with infoDev, has supported the establishment and operation of a number of mLabs across emerging markets in support of local developers,‚” says Jussi Hinkkanen, vice president corporate relations for Nokia Middle East and Africa. ‚”The AppCampus collaboration showcases our commitment to strengthening the growing mLab network around the world and infoDev’s vision of supporting emerging market entrepreneurs in conquering local, regional and global markets‚”.

The official launch of the program took place during the mobile stream at the Global Forum on Innovation & Technology Entrepreneurship in East London, South Africa, organized by infoDev and the South African Department of Science & Technology. A key theme of the Forum is how innovation can lead to high-growth entrepreneurship which creates sustainable jobs. Valerie D’Costa, infoDev’s Program Manager says, ‚”The AppCampus initiative fits with the philosophy of infoDev of supporting innovative entrepreneurs from developing countries. We want to support those who can excel with some level of mentorship, skills training and seed financing. We provide potential job-creators better access to markets, which is what we are all about.‚”

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