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Mobile Money for the Unbanked

By Gunnar Camner

Leveraging the mobile money ecosystem to increase traffic

Leveraging the mobile money ecosystem to increase traffic

We have previously shared best practices in various areas such as distribution, marketing, and how to improve your internal procedures and org structure to accelerate mobile money deployments. But leveraging what is around you, and inviting external innovations on the mobile money platform is also a topic that can yield strategic and commercial benefits. Mobile Money sparks innovation, and often smaller companies can have the dedication, agility and focus that larger organisations lack to bring mobile money to a new use case. The big fish can’t swim in the small streams, as one entrepreneur in Nairobi put it.

Small start-ups have already enabled mobile money to become a payments mean for online transactions and purchases in Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Another good example is Kopo Kopo in Kenya, who are the service providers for retailers that we’ve talked about before.  Kopo Kopo is a small operation that aims to leverage the growth of mobile money to trigger mobile retail payments, and the number of start-ups is growing.

At the Mobile Money working group last year in Milan, we had the privilege to invite Paolo Baltao,  Omar Moeen Malik and Shaibu Haruna on stage to discuss their views on the role of external players in mobile money, how these can be leveraged to grow your business and what the barriers they have experienced so far in this pursuit.

In order to take advantage of innovation around them, operators need:

  1. A deployment with a  strong foundation; active customers and efficient agent network needs to be in place in order to become attractive for innovation and external players
  2. A strategy to overcome technical barriers; lack of standardised ways to integrate external players with the platforms, as well as the technical maturity of your partners, delays and increases the cost of connecting. Having useful APIs and being in control of these integrations (not your vendor) can be ways to mitigate the cost and delay.
  3. A willingness to invest resources; many operators have strategic fears of losing control when increasing the presence of external parties on the platform. Therefore it is important to have dedicated staff to monitor, oversee and engage the ecosystem to increase traffic and ensure that the relationships are sustainable and improved if necessary.
  4. A clear business case; as more companies with more business models are expected to show interest in connecting to your platform, the technical costs and integration time will hopefully go down with time to make the business case for integrating with them more attractive. Having flexible billing options increases the types of businesses that want to connect to your platform. Insurance subscription companies, retail payments companies or financial institutions are all likely to have different business models and charging/billing needs.

Having more products that are stable and brings value to your customers increases the relevance and strategic importance of your platform. In the closing remarks, Shaibu Haruna summarizes the discussion and concludes that if you want to be successful, deployments should be open – and perhaps more importantly – be ready to invest.

To hear these messages from our expert panellists, watch the highlights from the conversation below.

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