Highlights from the 2019 Mobile Money Leadership Forum

The GSMA Mobile Money team were delighted to return to Kigali, Rwanda’s bustling capital, for the 2019 Mobile 360 – Africa event, which convened a record-breaking 1000 delegates from 59 countries. Mobile money and financial inclusion were prominent themes throughout the packed three-day agenda, featuring in sessions on assistive technology, agriculture, identity and humanitarian innovation, to name a few. On the third and final day, we had the privilege of hosting the 2019 Mobile Money Leadership Forum – a lively half-day forum comprising fireside chats, panel discussions and TEDx-style talks with mobile money experts from Africa and beyond. The overarching theme of ‘payments as a platform’ was returned to repeatedly throughout the session, enriched by diverse perspectives on what’s needed to advance the mobile money ecosystem and enrich customers’ livelihoods.

Gerry Rasugu, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at the GSMA, set the scene, greeting a full room with the latest figures in mobile money before handing over to Yasmina McCarty, Head of Mobile Development, who emphasied mobile money as the ultimate lynchpin of innovation in Africa, enabling a breath of partnerships that were unimaginable in the early days of mobile money.

Industry evolution: Building on the basics towards ‘payments as a platform’

Yasmina welcomed to the stage Matt Bohan, Senior Program Officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for a fireside chat exploring how operators have kept pace with customers’ needs, unlocking a breadth of services across multiple industries by transitioning towards a ‘payments as a platform’ model. Matt spoke passionately about this transition to a platform-based approachemphasising the need for a payments as an interoperable platform which champions industry coordination and collaboration for maximum impact. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested over one billion dollars in financial inclusion as of last year, including funds to support the new GSMA Inclusive Tech Lab, launching at Mobile 360 – Digital Societies in September.

Amplifying impact: Empowering MSMEs and entrepreneurs to thrive in the digital economy

Our second session of the day was moderated by Sheila Okiro of the African Development bank and explored the small businesses and entrepreneurs who form the backbone of informal and local economies in emerging markets, and the mobile money industry’s responsibility to effectively serve this fast-evolving customer segment. CTO of Twiga Foods, Caine Wanjau, spoke of mobile money as a pivotal component in enabling Twiga Foods to scale their operations. He also suggested three areas in which mobile money providers could further support MSMEs: 1) by mitigating risk by only releasing credit on delivery; 2) by adding values such as insurance, whereby vendors can pay a small daily amount; and 3) by scaling interoperability to enable transactions between networks. Sharif Banamwana, Product Manager of Airtel Rwanda, emphasised the need to work closely with regulators to help unlock the MSME sector for mobile money providers, specifically by addressing ‘know your customer’ (KYC) restrictions. Ecocash’s CEO, Natalie Jabangwe, highlighted that 50 per cent of Africa’s economic activity occurs in informal markets, and reiterated the importance of collaboration between banks, fintechs and mobile money providers to effectively serve the MSME sector.

Strategic ‘coopetition’: The value of partnerships in the platform

Our third session of the day focused on the fresh perspective of strategic ‘coopetition’ and how mobile money providers can increasingly adopt a new variety of hybrid business strategies, incorporating elements of both collaboration and healthy competition. Chris Williamson of Safaricom noted that the lines between ’partners’ and ‘competitors’ within the financial services space are increasingly blending. In 2018, Mowali set a new standard for industry collaboration by offering a platform to function as an open industry utility to facilitate interoperability. Serigne Dioum, Head of MFS at MTN Group, who together with Orange Group launched Mowali, explained that the platform aims to achieve three types of interoperability to advance the financial ecosystem: domestic, regional and interoperability for merchant payments. Angelica Pesha highlighted Tigo Tanzania’s partnership with Mastercard to enable the easy facilitation of payments, recognising that payments remain the most popular service offering in comparison to loans, savings and other financial services. Mastercard brings the infrastructure, standards and product capability to support operators in accelerating interoperability, said Ngozi Megwa, Mastercard’s Senior VP of Digital Partnerships for MEA region. “Our work in this sector is to build on the good work of the mobile operators, but as a technology enabler.”

Looking ahead: The life of a mobile money user of the future

The 2019 Leadership Forum concluded with a captivating TEDx-style talk from Ken Njoroge, Co-Founder and CEO of Cellulant, on how the horizon is changing for mobile money customers, and what their financial lives will look like in ten years’ time. He noted the significance of the social landscape in customers’ daily lives and said there will be no part of life that won’t be anchored by payments. In shaping the consumer experience, Ken ventured “money wants to get out of paper as much as music wanted to get out of vinyl”. The impact of the mobile money experience across different sectors will no doubt be a few levels deeper by 2030 – the current mobile money business model will disappear, everyone will have a smartphone, payments will be interoperable and data will be free.

We would like to thank all of our speakers for making this year’s Mobile Money Leadership Forum a great success. Join us at our next event in September at Mobile 360 – Digital Societies in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the launch of the Mobile Money Inclusive Tech Lab. We would be delighted to meet with you there!

Read our State of the Industry Report: Sub-Saharan Africa analysis


Join the Conversation (one comment)

  • Fantastic article Emily. The impact of mobile will soon parallel what electricity did to humanity, lighting up an entire world. Keep up the good work and thank you for sharing. Well done Kenneth Njoroge and the team at Cellulant.

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