Mobile Financial Services: A Unique Opportunity for Mobile Operators in Africa

By: Abdulrahman Ali | Mar 20 | 2019
In emerging markets, the unbanked population is high. And the reason is obvious - banks just aren’t accessible to a majority of the population. Banks are a fine solution for someone living in the city, but the cost analysis to open a bank in rural areas and employ 3 people to run a small branch just doesn’t add up. And even if these bank branches existed, they could still likely be half a days journey from potential customers. The customer on the other side of this equation will not want or be able to lose half a day (or more!) just to visit a bank and gain access to his/her hard-earned money. A recent survey indicated that as many as 46% of the unbanked population keep their savings hidden at home. An additional 35% noted that they are unable to save money at all. The simple fact is that banks are unable to meet the needs of the entire population. Alternatively, mobile carriers reach the farthest corners of the continent, allowing the most rural populations to be connected. Mobile Financial Solutions (MFS) piggy-backs on the network operators’ reach to make instantaneous cash transfers accessible to the entire population. One of my favorite examples of MFS improving the quality of life for the rural African population was spray-painted on the side of a camel. Nomadic communities will often raise and sell camels in trade. On a visit to Mogadishu, walking by the port, I noticed a herd of camels, all with mobile phone numbers painted on their sides. The traders, as they loaded each camel onto a ship, would run a quick transaction to the phone number on the side of each camel. The original owner would receive payment automatically and know that his camel had made it to the intended destination without his having had to spend a week delivering said camel to port. If you’re buying a car, a camel, or even a tomato, mobile financial solutions simplify life’s transactions. As a mobile operator, the ability to offer such a solution to a predominately unbanked population is a great opportunity to upsell the customer base and gain that competitive edge. So what’s stopping you? Send me a message if you want to talk more about implementing mobile financial solutions.

About the Author

Abdulrahman Ali

The Co-Founder and Managing Director at Safarifone, Abdulrahman Ali has more than 15 years of experience in delivering SaaS and IaaS solutions to telecoms and financial service providers with an emphasis on the Mobile Financial Solutions (MFS) services provided by telcos in African and Latin American developing countries. Mr. Ali also has particular interest in the human element of providing financial services to the unbanked and rural populations, and is involved in a number of projects facilitating financial inclusion to the unbanked. Mr. Ali holds a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science from Benadir University and a Post-Graduate diploma in Business Administration from the University of Wales.