For the first time, Mobile 360 – Africa took place in Kigali, Rwanda – a country fast gaining a reputation for innovative use cases for mobile money. The event brought together over 840 attendees to connect and network with the brightest industry leaders in Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. The centrality of the service to the story of today’s mobile industry in Africa was clear throughout the three-day event. Mobile money featured prominently across the first two days, where speakers discussed how the service is being used for humanitarian disbursements, agriculture, utilities, and more. This culminated in our Mobile Money Leadership Forum on the third and final day, where lively discussions took place between industry experts on everything from blockchain to gender inclusion, biometrics to interoperability.
Nathan Naidoo, the GSMA’s Acting Head of Mobile Money and John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer set the stage highlighting the momentous evolution of digital financial services in recent years and how mobile money providers are leveraging their reach to drive economic digitisation worldwide. This was followed by a fireside chat between Akinwale Goodluck, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa and Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda. Dr Monique spoke passionately about the transformative power of gender inclusion as an integral part of any financial inclusion strategy and the importance of strong partnerships between the public and private sectors in order to accelerate meaningful financial inclusion.
Funding for growth: Investment models for the next generation of mobile money
Funding for Growth explored how MNOs can remain competitive in a fast-paced, evolving market, and what mobile money services mean for broader MNO valuations. Orange Money’s Alban Luherne highlighted Orange’s commitment to investing in new, innovative financial services, sharing that when a mobile money service reaches a certain maturity, the EBITDA is comparable to that of the core telecommunications business. Raghav Prasad, Division President of Mastercard, emphasised three foundational principles driving Mastercard’s financial services investments: making payments convenient, fast and safe. Jojo Malolos, CEO of Wing Cambodia, highlighted that while ‘over the counter’ services are still driving good margins in the regions, Wing has strengthened its digital offering to both wallet customers, through a collaboration with Mastercard, and SMEs by integrating Wechat and Alipay QR codes. Karima Ola, Partner at LeapFrog Investments, shed light on the investor’s perspective, how crucial affordability and scalability are when investing in financial services.
Innovating for trust: New approaches to building confidence in the ecosystem
A fireside chat between Serigne Dioum, Head of Mobile Financial Services, MTN Group and Nathan Naidoo delved into the future of mobile money, and the importance of consumer trust in responsibly scaling the industry. Serigne also highlighted the impact that mobile money taxation is having on financial inclusion and called on all providers and governments to work together to find alternative solutions. The Innovating for Trust session saw speakers from UNCDF, IrisGuard, MFS Africa and Millicom discussing fraud analytics, the role of privacy by design and the importance of industry initiatives such as the GSMA Mobile Money Certification in increasing trust. Speakers agreed that one of the central challenges associated with building privacy into the design of mobile money services is ensuring that the user interface remains simple.
Technology evolution: Disruption and the future of the payments value chain
Our first afternoon session featured global technology experts from the Government of India, BFA Global, Fintech Institute and Telepin to discuss and debate technologies reshaping the mobile money industry. Conversations spanned the spread of QR codes in China, the use of biometric identity in India, the adoption of artificial intelligence by small-medium enterprises and considerations for the application of blockchain in the burgeoning mobile money industry. Arun Sharma, Director of the DBT Mission at the Government of India revealed that India’s identity platform, Aadhaar, hosting 1.2 billion biometrically verified unique IDs, has already linked 600 million IDs to financial accounts. Matt Grasser of BFA Global implored the industry to consider whether existing technologies could in fact solve the problems that new innovations are attempting to address. For example, could a new smartphone innovation exist for USSD models? Matt emphasised that our commitment to financial inclusion, not exclusion, means we should not disintermediate users with future innovations.
Getting to the last mile: Changing the way we’re reaching the underserved
Drawing the day to a close, our final panellists discussed how an array of live solutions for reaching the last mile are spurring new industries and connecting people to the digital world. Jamie Zimmerman of the Gates Foundation reminded attendees of one statistic not to be forgotten in the context of the mobile money industry’s eleven years of transformative growth: the 1.7 billion who remain financially excluded. MTN’s Arthur Rutawengwa highlighted the IPN Hub and its eight integrated service providers, which is helping to facilitate the market for pay-as-you-go solar lighting and could eventually expand into payments for transportation, agriculture and health, supporting efforts to reach rural communities. Safaricom’s Dr Shikoh Gitau explained that industry collaboration is key to breaking down the lasting barriers to financial inclusion, hence Safaricom Alpha’s commitment to innovating not to compete, but to anticipate and build for the future.
We would like to thank all our speakers and attendees on their insightful contributions. We’re already looking forward to reconvening next year. Follow GSMA Mobile Money on Twitter @GSMAMobileMoney for more live updates of our activities including events and publications.