Big money players look to mobile in Africa

Following Orange’s announcement this week that it will take its Visa Mobile Prepaid accounts functionality to its Orange Money customers across Africa, and Western Union’s growing focus on mobile money facilities, mobile solutions firm Comviva has announced a partnership with MasterCard to launch mobile money services for underserved customers.

The announcements were made at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where mobile money services were a key focus in many discussions. Speakers at the event noted that emerging markets represent strong growth opportunities for mobile money due to the high numbers of unbanked and under-banked customers.

Orange said this week that it plans to introduce Visa payment capability to Orange Money subscribers in select markets across Africa and the Middle East by the end of 2012.

Western Union used the Congress as a platform to highlight its partnership with Ericsson to roll out mobile-to-mobile money transfer services across Africa. Western Union noted that it now has mobile money transfer agreements with a total of 26 mobile wallet providers in 22 countries.  The company said it had launched mobile money transfer services in nine countries, including Burkina Faso, Kenya, Madagascar, and Tanzania.

Comviva now says it is working with MasterCard to launch a first-of-its-kind open loop Mobile Money Partnership Programme. Working together, Comviva and MasterCard will help the more than 2.5 billion financially underserved consumers globally to gain access to mainstream financial services – via their mobile phone.

Commenting on this strategic partnership with MasterCard, Manoranjan Mohapatra, CEO of Comviva, said: “With our established leadership in empowering mobile money technology across geographies, we are thrilled to support MasterCard’s first-of-its-kind open loop Mobile Money Partnership Programme. Our dominance in emerging markets makes us as an unequivocal partner of choice for MasterCard to cater to underbanked segments with intuitive financial services. With mobile financial services turning into a key business strategy for banks and telecom vendors, this program will also give the right impetus to financial and social inclusion.”

“With about five billion mobile phone users worldwide, this partnership program provides powerful, smart and convenient new payment options to people through a device that’s already in the palm of their hands today. To ensure success of this program, MasterCard has partnered with the leading players in the mobile money ecosystem. Comviva was a key partner of choice to empower billions of underserved segments in the developing market,” said Mung Ki Woo, Group Executive, Mobile, MasterCard Worldwide.

According to Juniper Research, the combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than USD600 billion globally by 2013, double the current figure.

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