Rwanda:MTN dials up cross-border mobile money transfer deal

Money Transfer

MTN Rwanda and I Stay Connected Ltd have entered into a partnership to facilitate international mobile money transfers.

The deal between MTN and the US-registered company is expected to kick off next month. This follows growing cut-throat competition in the telecoms sector, which has forced industry players to be innovative in order to grow their revenues.

While all the players — MTN Rwanda, Tigo Rwanda and Airtel Rwanda — offer mobile money transfer services locally, none had ventured into cross-border and international services.

With the new partnership, MTN is set to be the first local telco to offer the service across borders, both within and outside the region.

I Stay Connected and MTN will offer the transfers at affordable rates compared with traditional service providers.

To send money from abroad to Rwanda, for instance, Western Union charges depend on the amount sent and the agent used, with the minimum being Rwf5,000 ($7.3) for a transaction of less than $100 (Rwf67,797.5), while for the same amount MoneyGram charges the sender $9.9 (Rwf6,711).

However, the charge for using the mobile money transfer service in Rwanda within the MTN network is as low as Rfw500 for sending Rwf100,000.

“The project is ongoing and, once complete, it will empower people to do cross-border transactions as well as remit money home from abroad,” said Albert Kinuma, the officer in charge of mobile money at MTN.

Kinuma could, however, not give the latest data for MTN mobile money transactions for past year because the company was still compiling statistics.

The initiative between MTN and I Stay Connected was motivated by increased number of Rwandans in the diaspora.

With regard to developments in mobile financial services, the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) has licensed all the three telcos to offer mobile payment services and eight commercial banks offer mobile banking services and Internet banking.

Visa Rwanda Ltd has developed Mobile Visa (mVisa), product that allows mobile banking service interoperability. Two banks have been live since April 2013.

Transactions through mVisa are settled by RIPPS through Visa NNSS. Moreover, one mobile network operator is now linked to two banks so as to facilitate movement of funds between the mobile payments and mobile banking wallets of a client.

Latest central bank figures released in August show the number of subscribers for mobile payment had by June increased to 2,048,260 from 1,440,541.

“With MTN we are almost done with the technical part but, at the same time, we are considering working with other telecom operators,” said Mr Lione Munyaneza, the I Stay Connected chief marketing officer.

I Stay Connected will also provide services such as international mobile top-up and cash power prepaid electricity.

The international mobile top-up service will also facilitate the Rwandan diaspora to load airtime onto the telephones of their relatives in Rwanda, who will in turn be able to make calls at a lower rate.