Uganda: Airtel's Mobile Money creates seamless regional money transfer

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

The entry of Airtel Uganda into the Mobile Money platform is set to generate renewed innovativeness that could yet again send ripples across Uganda's telecom sector.

Early last week, Airtel launched it's mobile money platform dubbed 'Airtel Money' that will enable Ugandans to access liquid cash and convert it to e-money in order to pay bills and accounts, top up mobile credit and receive money across the country's telecom networks.

Mobile Money glitches that occurred on the MTN network towards the close of last year gave rival telecoms a real chance to capitalize on these errors so as to get a share of the service that has been embraced by many Ugandans.

Warid Telecom joined the platform by introducing cash transactions across all networks late last year.

Airtel joins Warid, MTN and Uganda Telecom in providing mobile commerce to the vast mobile phone users.

Airtel though has gone a step further and partnered with banks including Standard Chartered, Post Bank, KCB, Diamond Trust Bank, Centenary Bank and enabled their customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones using ATMs that are connected to the InterSwitch platform.

Speaking during the launch of the service, V.G SomasekharAirtel Managing Director said that mobile phones are not only limited to making calls but have also become an avenue for cash transactions.

"Mobile Commerce has the potential to completely transform the population and the core target of this service is the rural businessman.

"Rural Uganda has often felt they were left out and that is why we have invested over Ushs100m ($42,864) into developing our network infrastructure because a tele density increase has the potential to drive GDP by up to 1%.

"Our rural reach will enable even the person at the furthest end of the country to participate in commerce which will hence promote economic development," Somasekhar said.

Experts have predicted that as a result of these innovations, Ugandans, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been presented with a chance to choose from the various operators the easiest and most convenient way to clear their bills, receive payment for their goods as well as access.

According to Financial Technology Africa, recent surveys showed that a combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600b globally by 2013.

LaminMajang, the Managing Director Standard Chartered Bank said that Mobile Money is not a threat to Banking but the two will complement each other because telecom and Banking are the fastest growing sectors.

"We have integrated our systems with the telecoms and this will enable customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones. A customer can therefore top up his/her mobile wallet through our ATMs", he said.

According to mobilemoneyafrica.com, Michael Okwiri, the vice president for corporate communication at Airtel Africa, the firm was in the process ofcreating a seamless money transfer service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which will allow for cash transfer across EA.