The advent of a mobile phone took the modern world by storm. The concept of a palm-size gadget that one can use to call, SMS or even beep anyone anywhere on the globe is, a decade down the road, still mind-boggling for some.

And now, it turns out, wireless technology has another trick up its sleeves that would relegate the aforementioned core functions of a mobile phone to being just the periphery basics.

Mobile Payments (MoPay) International and Publicell, a Rwandan ICT company, have clinched a partnership deal that would see them provide a mobile payment system that would enable banks, telecom operators, bill issuing companies and various merchants allow their customers to use mobile phones or computers to order and pay for goods and services.

The partnership agreement was signed recently by Dr. Cobus Potgieter, the owner of MoPay International, and Mr. Jean de la Croix Gashakamba, the CEO of Publicell. It was followed by the actual incorporation of MoPay East Africa Ltd.

In the deal, Publicell will own 60% and MoPay International the remaining 40% shares in the company. Dr. Cobus Potgieter said the pilot phase will begin in Rwanda but the company plans to extend its network into Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania and Congo within six months.

MoPay International currently operates in more than 40 countries allover the world.

Gashakamba explained to Business Week that to use the MoPay system, subscribers are simply required to have a bank account, a mobile phone or laptop to settle bills from anywhere within the network. Any mobile phone having SMS function can be used to access the service.

Using the system, any kind of transactions can be completed with just 3 SMS: A user who wishes to effect a payment for a good or service sends an SMS to MoPay stating their request.

The customer is then asked by the MoPay system to send back their password and the system identifies them by crosschecking their mobile number and related information stored during the registration process.

If all is OK, the MoPay system connects wirelessly with the customer's bank and asks for payment. If the customer's account has enough funds for the transaction, the account is debited and the seller's account is credited.

The system concludes the transaction by sending an SMS to the parties confirming the success of the transaction.

In order to ensure that the mobile payment system is not restricted to only those with mobile phones and Bank accounts who number about 300,000 in Rwanda, the company plans to introduce what Gashakamba called Mobile Point of Service (M-POS).

Here, he explains, an interested customer can be able to register and have an account using the M-POS's address.

East African Business Week