MTN foresees mass adoption of mobile financial services

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Cape Town, 13 Nov 2019
MTN group CEO and president Rob Shuter.
MTN group CEO and president Rob Shuter.

MTN today has around 32 million 30-day active Mobile Money customers, group CEO and president Rob Shuter told delegates at the AfricaCom 2019 conference in Cape Town yesterday.

In his keynote discussion around digital inclusivity, Shuter said MTN doesn’t think of itself as a telco anymore. This, he elaborated, is because the company has a strategy to push out its business across three fronts that are telco-specific and fintech.

“I think we’re a scale player in fintech already. The third aspect of the strategy is to be a scale player in some narrowly defined digital services, particularly media, messaging and mobile advertising.”

Looking at the intersection of these three things, we say that it’s basically our strategy to be a digital operator, said Shuter.

In July, the JSE-listed group named Yolanda Cuba as group chief digital and fintech officer. In this role, she will lead the group’s strategic expansion of its financial services and digital solutions efforts and transformation into a digital operator, said the company.

According to Shuter, MTN has a shared belief that everybody deserves the benefits of a modern connected life. “Looking across our markets, of our 244 million customers, only around 87 million are using their mobile device for Internet services. This means about two-thirds are living in a 2G voice and SMS world.

“These are where there is not really a substitute infrastructure for broadband. We believe we have a major role to play in driving not only basic connectivity but also making sure the services we put over the connectivity are making a real impact in people’s lives.”

Meanwhile, the company announced its instant messaging platform, Ayoba, has reached a million monthly active users across eight markets.

The Pan-African telco describes Ayoba as an advanced communications application localised for African and Middle East consumer needs, under an independent over-the-top brand with unique features for MTN customers.

The app supports many local languages spoken across MTN’s markets, including isiZulu, isiXhosa, Pidgin, Yoruba, Swahili, Hausa, French and English.

Commenting on the milestone, Shuter said: “We believe that our customers in Africa and the Middle East deserve a communication platform that expresses our unique voice, honours our rich identity through local languages, and addresses our customers’ specific needs and challenges by offering a data-included offering for MTN users, Mobile Money (coming soon) transfers and locally relevant content via channels.”

There are plans to expand Ayoba to the rest of MTN’s 22 markets, and other territories across the globe. Before the end of the year, Ayoba is expected to go live in Guinea-Conakry, Liberia, Benin and Rwanda.

Ayoba is also available across multiple markets on the Google Play Store and via the Ayoba Web site.