Cote d'Ivoire: Opinions Divided On Mobile Banking
With the introduction of 'mobile banking', mobile phone users can now do more than exchange information on their handheld devices: they can also perform financial transactions. The new mobile service has transformed the lives of many Ivorians and raised concerns among others.
After punching in a few digits on the keypad of his mobile phone, Félix Soro reveals: "In a few moments, my mother, who remained in Korhogo (in northern Ivory Coast, 650km away from Abidjan), will receive a code with which she will be able to withdraw money from the nearest 'mobile banking' branch".
Since the introduction of the 'mobile banking' service by mobile operators, Soro has travelled less and less between Abidjan and Korhogo to give money to his mother. "A few months ago, it used to take me a whole weekend to get to Korhogo to give money to my mother. That's not the case anymore! I travel less and it saves me time. It works", he adds.
Hermann N'Da also uses the mobile banking service. "Subscription to this service is hassle free. One ID document is sufficient and there is no need to open a bank account. Those who are not subscribed to the service can still receive money. I use the service every month to send money to my little brother, who goes to high school in another city inland. With this service, you have your money in your phone, inside your pocket and you take it with you everywhere, and it's discreet", he says.
Today, more and more people are using mobile banking services as well as other electronic methods payment to pay their phone, water and electricity bills. However, many Ivorians are less keen on using banking services offered by mobile operators and electronic payment agencies citing concerns of piracy and identity theft.
"Since they do not carry large amounts of money, mobile banking subscribers may be safe from the numerous robberies that have targeted populations in recent days. However, they are not safe from piracy or identity theft on their cellphones. Even the Pentagon in the United States, with its great IT experts, was victim of cyber-terrorism. So I don't trust this new service", says Georges Konan, who is reluctant to use mobile banking services.
Séraphin Kabran, who is an IT engineer in a local company, is happy to learn that mobile banking services are in fashion in the Ivory Coast but deplores the fact that very few of these financial institutions use reliable and secure software. "The IT world is a jungle. Therefore, one has to be prepared for an eventual attack on one's system; something many electronic payment agencies and mobile operators are unfortunately not doing", he says.
While some hail this new technological advance, others focus on its negative impact. Marina Kacou, a Sociology student at the University of Cocody in Abidjan, believes that the introduction of money transfer through the mobile phone will lead to the disintegration of social relations. "When someone travels hundreds of kilometres to visit a relative in a village or in another city and give him/her money, the relative is happy not only to receive the money but also to see the person who sends the money. With the mobile banking services, the physical presence of the sender is no longer required. Yet, it is the physical presence of relatives that sets Africans apart".