Interview with Joel Awono-Ndjodo,Senior Manager MobileMoney - MTN Cameroon

Money Transfer

MMA:Your assessment of mobile financial services in Cameroon and Central Africa region.

Central Africa is in a growth stage with regard to the development of Mobile financial services. The different phases of building awareness and adoption of the service are a continuous process. Mobile Money in Cameroon particularly plays a leading role in its economic space as it leads the impetus in the control process, customer experience, construction of an ecosystem, fashioning a coherent distribution channel, development of an attractive value proposition, field visibility and training of users at all levels (Merchants, Agents and End-users).

Important to note is the fact  that at this primary phase of the product more emphasis is on volume and not on the value of transactions.  For example, Mobile Money operators wish at this stage is to make the service usage to become a habit to its target clients.

MMA:How can Mobile financial services benefit government and partners like financial institutions and other ecosystem players in the region.

Mobile Financial services contribute significantly to our country’s real progress with regard to issues such as financial inclusion and the dematerialization of the means of payment. The adoption by the State of this innovative service has helped to give credibility and confidence to all economic operators and other financial stakeholders.

It is worthy to recap that in Cameroon, University tuition fees and property tax are paid via Mobile Money. Moreover, the State engaged in the collection of the tax and the payment of service contractors via Mobile Money in the 2014 Finance Act.

In fact, Financial inclusion has a double advantage : to increase the volume of formal virtual financial cash flows and to provide traceability in all  financial transactions while integrating the most vulnerable (financial inclusion) to this ecosystem.

MMA:What are specific use cases that other regions in Africa can learn and replicate across Africa.

MTN Cameroon has developed a successful partnership  with State and private Universities  for the payment of registration and tuition fees via Mobile Money. This  payment system brings added value to academic institutions in terms of easy payment collection and accountability. MTN has also improved the experience offered to students by reducing waiting time in long queues at banks with its associated risk. There is also a dedicated customer support line 24/7 in MTN for customer querries.  Guaranteed remote tuition fees payment from any part of the country  with an instant payment confirmation sms.

MTN Cameroon has also developed via an aggregator, kiosks deployed in places of affluence, high population traffic  and who accept self « Cash In ». This innovative device structurally changes the business model by offering enough points of MTN presence  in places of  affluence and high  population traffic available 24/7.

MMA:Challenges of interoperability in the region?                          

Inter-operability is not yet a strong challenge of the time. For instance, each of the Mobile Money operators is working to consolidate its subscriber numbers and developing its ecosystem. This debate comes too soon under the current stage where the young Central Africa market economy  is struggling to attain   maturity.

Mobile Money is gaining traction in other regions in the Non Governmental organization sectors. How can the region plug into it and how ready is MTN mobile money to help in achieving this.                                                                                   

It is a question of opportunity. In other OPCO’s Mobile Money facilitated transactions to support refugees with the United Nations. Such a model could be replicated in Cameroon easily. This is ongoing with interested NGO’s that plan to install  Mobile Money permanently as a payment option to deal with local suppliers moving forward.

MMA:Any role for international development agencies in assisting in capacity building and penetration of mobile money in the region?

The penetration of Mobile Money in the local socio-economic landscape  of the region is possible subject to injection of substantial financial resources. These means would be used to strengthen training, ground visibility, communication, promotions, brochures, animations with sound systems, the construction and consolidation of a Mobile Money distribution network in urban and rural areas. Finally, the recruitment of payment acceptors of Mobile Money would also be useful to democratize, popularise the service and install it in the lives of even the most modest of our society.

MMA:What is the future of MobileMoney in Cameroon and Central Africa region.

We are considering the adventure with enthusiasm and pragmatism. The pooling of intelligences and experiences of all stakeholders operating Mobile Money in Cameroon and in Central Africa, will facilitate regulatory advances, the diversification of products and services, improving the customer experience. The number of active subscribers is expected to grow exponentially  with an aggressive communication of its advantages. Mobile Money is a service of the future.

MMA:As a speaker at the MobileMoneyExpo- Central Africa in September, what should delegates expect from You and MTN MobileMoney?

We will share in a practical and illustrative manner the experience of MTN Cameroon in this sector. We wish to recall that the complexity to make Mobile Money work via a telecom operator has got a well-established notoriety because the expectations of the market are sometimes disproportionate. Also, the success built taking corrective lessons from our failures experienced over time. Sharing best practice approach appears to us essential because the example is worth a lesson. We will in prudence detail the steps for achieving our success.

NOTE: MobileMoneyExpo - Central Africa takes place on September 25 - 26 at Le Meridien Hotel, Douala - Cameroon. Register at www.mobilemoneyexpo.com