MTN launches cellphone banking service

South African cellphone operator MTN on Monday said it was launching a mobile banking service in 21 African and Middle East countries where there is poor access to traditional banks.

“We have launched this service in South Africa in 2005,” said Dare Okoudjou of MTN’s cellphone banking department.

“But it wasn’t a full bank account with the mobile phone at the primary access, it was very focused on key basic services, such as money transfer,” he said of the South African service.

Now MTN is planning to offer a fully-fledged bank account on cellphones called MTN MobileMoney which will allow users to pay for purchases or check balances. A credit card will be optional.

MTN calls the service “a convenient, secure and affordable way for MTN subscribers to send money, buy airtime and pay bills using their cellphone”.

The service will be extended to the other 20 countries where MTN operates including Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire, which have
a combined 90-million cellphone users.

MTN said it signed a $9,7-million deal with Fundamo, a South African-based specialist provider of mobile financial services software.

British cellphone giant Vodafone and France’s Orange are already active in the market.

“In Benin, banking penetration is about 1% of the population, compared to 1,5-million telecom lines,” or 18% of the total population, said Okoudjou.

In the Middle East banks are more widespread and the new service could be complementary.

According to a recent study by telecom analyst firm Berg Insight the service could be potentially used by 913-million people by 2014, against 20-million today.

The Gobal System of Mobile Communications (GSM) association, which represents the interests of the worldwide mobile communications industry in more than 200 countries, in February launched 20 cellphone banking services in Asia, Africa and South America.

It has said that these services had a market potential of $5-billion by 2012. – AFP

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