French Company to launch voice activated mobile payment in Nigeria

Digital Content

Tagattitude France, multiple award winners at the international (GSMA) Global System for Mobile Communication Association event, is set to launch its payment solution in Nigeria. The chief operating officer of the company, Herve Manceron, speaks with Okoegwale Emmanuel on the workability of the solution, its advantages and why Nigeria is considered ready for this means of payment.

Q: Your company was selected as a Global winner in the GSMA Innovations Category in 2008, Do you have your eyes on any trophy this year at the upcoming event?

You see we have been awarded three different times in various categories, at the Global GSMA event which is the parent association for all GSM standard operators worldwide. And also at the GSMA’s Global Innovation 2009 award competition, we had a good show. So I think we need to allow other guys to also have a chance too.

Q: Mobile Subscription is increasing in Africa generally and Nigeria particularly is a leader in this trend. How do you intend to leverage on this success, to bring mobile payments to the lower end of the market?

First of all our technology has the advantage to work for any phone on the street and for any network. The innovation, works through the voice channel of any phone to transmit data. And our target is to get to the bottom of the pyramid target market. So once your phone is still working, you can log unto the service and use it. You don’t need to download any special software, no sophisticated sign on techniques. As long as there is a mobile phone network where you are located, you can log on to the service and pay person to person, person to Point Of Sale (POS) terminal. No issue of my bank is sleeping; it works 24/7 and the transaction is in just few seconds. So through this technology, we are going to offer the easiest payment services available any where in the world as at today.

Q: How affordable is this service going to be to Nigerians who want to use it?

We have a base line, of which every transaction is as easy as making a phone call. The transaction takes a maximum of three to five seconds to be authenticated and you are charged, just those few seconds of using your phone. So you could see how affordable the service is. Thus it is so affordable that people can use it as many times a day without even thinking of the cost attached to it.

Q: There are other major mobile payment systems already in existence, what advantage could you say the Near Sound Data Transfer (NSDT) has in comparison to others?

There are many advantages, the technology is extremely secured and has the ability For funds to be stored, extracted, transacted, and managed. Unlike the SMS payment for example, it is not secured in the sense that, it has to be limited to one operator. So the SMS technology works only in one user group. If I am using MTN and you use Glo as a merchant, I cannot pay you. But this payment system is universal and this is a key to the success of this payment system that is to be deployed.

Also the simplicity in using this solution is another advantage, even if you don’t know how to read and write, as long as you can make a call you can use this payment solution.

It is actually the only mobile banking solution that people in even remote villages, can use as long as there is a phone network there. More so you don’t need an account number in a bank once you have a mobile phone, all that is needed to identify you on the system is your mobile phone number. So even if your phone is stolen, the money is not on your phone, your phone is only a channel, that’s the brilliance of this solution, and the security is unparallel.

There are also numerous advantages for even people who have existing bank accounts, because it is so easy to migrate the bank server that has account shake with this solution server, so that not only can you as a bank account owner use this platform, it can actually relate directly to your bank account, so that you receive automatic top ups.

It is also customized to allow for a number of different languages, even the Pigin English option can be available at a prompt. So there are so many features and advantages that this solution holds.

Q: Are we looking at Tagattitude opening a Nigerian office or working through partnerships?

Yes we work with partnerships. Tagattitude France, has always worked in third party countries through partnerships. In Mali and some other countries where we currently operate, local firms are pushing the business model and it is quite a huge success. In Nigeria, we are working in close collaboration with Tagattitude Nigeria Limited.

Do you think the Nigerian market is really ready for this mobile payment system?

Yes, absolutely. You just show Nigerians the product, and you will be shocked at the rate of the adaptation to the technology. Nigeria holds a unique attraction for us because of the success of mobile penetration across the landscape. The business case here has clearly demonstrated that Nigerians up take of technology is something that just happens at the snap of the fingers. Nigeria has more than 55 million mobile subscribers, under an addressable market of 140 million. The prospect for Nigeria is promising and rewarding.

Q: So what will be the role of the Banks and financial institutions in the development of this project in Nigeria?

The banking sector is believed to affect growth by improving the access to financial services and improving the efficiency of financial intermediaries, both of which reduce the cost of financing, and in turn, stimulate capital accumulation and economic growth. So by enabling mobiles to make secure transactions, the banking sector is opened, improving cost and efficiency of financing. Presently, developing-world national economies have difficulty accounting for cash transactions. Replacing cash with mobile payment will revitalize economies and generate development.

Q: So how will this NSDT address the un-banked population?

The unbanked can have their daily purchases in remote areas made in a few seconds by simply dialing a number and placing your phone against the phone of a vendor. No cards or terminals are needed. Local businesses can offer and manage prepaid accounts with their clients and pay their employees. With NSDT, all of the risks and inconveniences of cash are eliminated.

Nevertheless, funds can be easily and fluidly cash-in and -out when needed. By enabling easy cash-out and phone to phone transactions, the reluctance to dematerialization of cash is removed. The solution allows anybody with a mobile phone to make withdrawals from any ATM. The only modification on the existing ATMs is software. Microfinance banks can issue and supervise loans using mobile payment, raising the standard of accountability for their clients and facilitating loan distribution and collection. Loans can be sent to phones through the internet, saving loan officers dangerous and time consuming cash-laden trips to each borrower.

Alternatively, the money that is electronically lodged "on the phone" can be spent directly from one phone to another-avoiding cash all together. Borrowers can repay their loans to designated agents equipped with their phones "linked" to the micro credit bank or can repay through ATMs equipped with NSDT™ software. By integrating the NSDT™ mobile payment platform into the bank back office, microfinance operations are made more efficient, more secure, and more effective.

Q: Is Nigeria the only country in sight for this solution?

We are operating in Mali, Ivory Coast and some other African countries where demos and Pilots are currently running. Nigeria holds a unique attraction because of the absence of a nation wide mobile payment systems and the sheer number of the mobile subscription in addition to the very robust banking sector.

Q: What is your assessment of the financial sector in Nigeria?

Well the financial sector in Nigeria is good, but they still have a limited customer base. So with the technology we have, we can extend the services the banks provide, by expanding their customer base to more people. Therefore only twenty million people have bank accounts due to the inability of many to provide the necessary IDs such as National Passports or Driver’s License only twenty million people have bank accounts. However, a mobile phone has a unique ID which is the MSIDN number. Using this platform, we can bank the unbanked.

Q: When is this service going to start in Nigeria?

You see it is a road map, and there are many mile stones of the road map. We hope to commence the deployment of pilot systems and demos for a few selected Nigerian banks and one or two PSP providers (switching companies). The next stage will be a full deployment and that I believe will be determined by lots of local factors but like I said, we hope to begin full-scale operations soon.