Mobile Money in Angola: How Afrimoney is paving the way 

The arrival of Africell Angola in 2022 has brought a host of exciting opportunities for mobile users seeking a wider selection of services – including financial services. After a successful entry into Angola’s telecoms landscape, Africell officially launched its mobile money service, Afrimoney, in April 2023. Angola is characterised by a high percentage of unbanked individuals, estimated around 50%, and a significant informal sector. In this context, Afrimoney aims to bridge the gap between formal and informal economies through its mobile money service. While Angola has a well-established network of banks, digital financial services have yet to make a substantial impact in improving financial inclusion.  

We spoke to Simon Andersson-Manjang, the Acting Group Co-Head of Afrimoney, who highlighted the challenges faced during market entry, the nature of the regulatory environment and preliminary findings from the launch. As Africell continues to roll out its mobile network across the country, Afrimoney aims to connect diverse customers and partners, and contribute to a more inclusive and digitalised financial future for Angola. 

What drew Africell to launch Afrimoney in Angola?  

Angola is an incredible country, and we couldn’t have imagined a warmer welcome as we entered the market on the GSM side. After just eight months of operations, we had captured an incredible 25% market share. Before Africell’s entry, the market was dominated by a single state-owned player, meaning mobile customers in the country lacked choice. This led to many customers rapidly signing up for Africell SIM cards in the hope of better pricing and service quality. Encouraged by this positive reception, we decided to not delay the rollout of our mobile money service – Afrimoney – any further. So, after just 12 months on the ground, Africell launched Afrimoney.  

This decision was also impacted by Angola’s particular financial landscape. There is no shortage of strong, entrenched banks, and nearly half of Angolans have a bank account. However, over 80 per cent of the population still work in the informal sector. This means that there are many “underbanked” people in the country. These are individuals who do have bank accounts but only use them to withdraw their salary as cash once or twice a month. To add to this, the remaining 50 per cent of the population remain unbanked. Given this scenario, we believe that mobile money can, will and should play a role in connecting the formal and informal economies in the country. 

What does the current state of digital financial services look like in the country? 

There are several banks, both local and international, with most providing banking apps or, in some cases, agent banking facilities. As in most countries with significant natural resources, the financial services landscape is skewed towards high-income customers, both individual and corporate. This means that there is a huge opportunity in the rest of economy. Despite the favourable regulatory environment, mobile money services launched in the past have failed to bring significant financial inclusion to Angola.  

What type of regulatory hurdles did you have to overcome? 

The regulatory framework in Angola has been heavily informed by mobile money regulation elsewhere in Africa. As the GSMA’s own Mobile Money Regulatory Index shows, Angola currently scores highly. Due to Angola’s strong banking sector, the central bank is more accustomed to regulating retail banks. This led to some early differences in opinion on how mobile money should be regulated, which have since largely been resolved. Both regulators and established players are naturally worried about new types of payments service providers (PSP) entering the market. 

As with any PSP, we’re hoping to enjoy more flexibility from the central bank in future. For now, we understand that we need to build confidence in the mobile money model and prove ourselves as a responsible player. Neither of these is very hard. 

Which use cases do you currently offer and how do you hope to grow Afrimoney’s offering? 

We’re offering all the core mobile money use-cases: airtime, cash-in, cash-out, P2P transfers, as well as bill, bulk and merchant payments. With a population yearning for simple financial products, we will expand into more advanced products in the medium term. 

Afrimoney wants to be a catalyst for the overall financial ecosystem in Angola, connecting and integrating with as many partners as possible, whether they are banks, billers or merchants. We also want to be part of government efforts to further digitalise the economy, both in terms of payment collections and disbursements. We’re looking to eventually approach all types of customers and partners – large and small, urban and rural, private and public – to bring a better digital and financial future to all Angolans. 

Aside from navigating regulatory frameworks, what have been the main challenges of entering the market? Angola is not a leading market for mobile money – it would be good to understand where Africell has succeeded where others might have struggled. 

The most difficult thing is to explain to the wider public, and even to some partners, what mobile money really is. It’s a product that requires clear and consistent communication, the benefits of which can be best reaped through face-to-face training or experience. It is also important that people understand what everyday pain points Afrimoney can solve. 

Another issue is that it is very hard to build a distribution network before launching a service as the agents-to-be still may not have heard of your brand or even about mobile money as a concept. Yet, at the same time, you need to have a functioning agent network on day one. 

Mobile money is a volume game, so we’re looking forward to expanding and continuing to improve our communication on mobile money and financial literacy with our new user base in Angola. The GSM rollout to other provinces is still ongoing, with Africell services currently available in Angola’s two most populous and urbanised provinces – Luanda and Benguela. As the mobile business expands into new areas, mobile money will follow. 

What are your preliminary findings in terms of adoption of the service? 

As of early June 2023, and after about six weeks of operations, we had just over 400,000 registered customers – all of whom were self-registered. We will continue to ensure that we enlarge this base even while we start focusing on different types of usage and overall customer activations. 

Have you been working with donors to launch this service? 

No. However, Afrimoney Angola has just been awarded a major grant by USAID. The grant was announced by the White House on 20 May 2023 in connection with the G7 Summit, and as part the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII). This award shows that mobile money is seen as an important driver for development. Mobile money has proven to be the most effective way to reach poor people and give them access to the financial tools needed to better their situation. 

What’s next for Afrimoney Angola? 

Essentially, everything! We’re only six weeks into operations and are still focusing on the fundamentals of getting a mobile money service going. We will be putting a lot of effort into product awareness and general financial literacy to educate the public about mobile money. 

As Africell rolls out GSM services nationwide and Afrimoney follows, we might see an increased use of urban-rural transfers as more and more peri-urban and rural areas are covered. Rolling out GSM and mobile money services at the same time is unusual, but it means that we can create a lot of synergies and have a shared approach to capturing the market.