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MTN’s Motsa ‘stubbornly optimistic’ about MoMo relaunch

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 30 Jan 2020
MTN SA CEO Godfrey Motsa.
MTN SA CEO Godfrey Motsa.

MTN SA CEO Godfrey Motsa says he is “stubbornly optimistic” the mobile operator’s mobile money service will be a success in its second attempt.

This morning, MTN relaunched is Mobile Money (MoMo) platform in Johannesburg, about four years after the service failed to take off in SA.

The telco launched the service in partnership with Ubank, a financial service provider with a strong presence in rural areas as well as mining communities in SA.

Speaking during the launch event, a confident Motsa said “failure was not an option” for MoMo this time around.

In September 2016, MTN SA announced it was decommissioning the MoMo offering in the country due to lack of commercial viability.

The service was originally launched in 2012 when MTN partnered with the South African Bank of Athens, Pick n Pay and Boxer stores to offer a mobile money solution enabling the opening of simple bank accounts via phones.

Mobile money offerings have been successful all over the continent but do not have a strong track record locally.

In May 2016, Vodacom also pulled the plug on its offering, M-Pesa, in South Africa.

Fintech focus

“Today is a very important day for us because we have been working on this MoMo product for almost two years,” said Motsa.

“We cannot build the future of MTN purely just by selling data bundles and voice minutes – we need to diversify the business, and one of the areas that we have identified for that is fintech, hence we are launching Mobile Money.”

Admitting to the previous not-so-good MoMo experience, Motsa said “it also very important for us to say we have tried this before and haven’t been successful.

“So why do we believe this thing will work now when we have failed before? This is because armchair critics have said many things before; for example, that ‘South Africa is not Africa, or South Africa has a sophisticated banking system’.

“It’s very important for us to understand that the Mobile Money service is not trying to replace the banking system. We believe that we are complementary to the banking system. This is because the number of people who are unbanked just in South Africa is over 10 million and this excludes the immigrants. We need to bring financial inclusion to these people.

“The other thing is we may have failed to get what we wanted before but today, we know how to do the stuff. We are in 14 countries and we have over 30 million customers. We have as many mobile money customers as we have customers in South Africa. So from a scale perspective, this is serious business. So we have learnt a lot. This is a tried and tested platform.

“We are very confident about this and I would personally say I am stubbornly optimistic that this will succeed. We can’t afford to fail again. We can’t get this thing right in certain countries and come to fail here where there are over 10 million people who basically do not have access to banking services,” Motsa said.

Phased approach

MoMo is available to all South African citizens, regardless of the network they are using. The platform, which is powered by Ubank, enables customers to use their mobile phones, and other devices, to send and receive money, purchase airtime and prepaid electricity, and pay for their municipal bills and DSTV subscriptions.

MTN says this makes MoMo appealing to even the banked community who might not enjoy the burden of withdrawing cash from their accounts.

With regards to being able to use MoMo at retail stores, MTN is taking a phased approach in terms of bringing the full offering to life. Adding South Africa’s well-known retail brands to the platform will be implemented from May 2020 onwards, the company says.

It adds that MoMo is available to customers who use both smartphones, and basic feature phones, making it a solution that can be used by anyone – ranging from people who have not been part of the formal financial services world, to those looking for a convenient way to purchase luxury goods.

MTN MoMo offers two types of accounts, a Yello account and a Yello Plus account. On the Yello account, daily cash transactions are limited to R3 500.

The total daily amount for a full range of transactions is R10 000, while the monthly account limit is capped at R20 000. On Yello Plus, daily cash transactions are limited to R10 000.

The total daily amount for a full range of transactions is R20 000, while the monthly account limit is capped at R40 000.

MoMo customers can cash in funds at MTN-branded stores, at UBank branches, or through their own banks via electronic fund transfers (EFTs). Similarly, they can use these options to cash out funds.

MTN is awaiting final approval from Apple to register the MoMo app on the Apple App Store. This is expected to be finalised within the next couple of weeks, it notes.

As is the case with any new fintech solution, customers are always concerned about security. Felix Kamenga, chief officer of MTN SA mobile financial services, says providing customers with peace of mind and the confidence they can transact safely was a top priority when designing the MoMo platform.

“The beauty of MoMo is that we have struck a balance between building world-class safety and security measures without compromising the ease of use and simplicity of the platform,” says Kamenga.

Biometrics security

MoMo uses biometrics like voice and facial recognition to authenticate users. The details of MoMo customers are cross-checked with the population database at the Department of Home Affairs. In addition, the user’s funds are protected by a PIN. If the MoMo customer loses their phone, their money is still safe.

MoMo use the Ericsson Wallet Platform, providing MTN with an m-commerce solution, systems integration, operational support and solution development.

“Another very important part of this journey for us was to ensure we contribute positively towards enabling job creation,” says Kamenga. “MoMo currently has about 50 dedicated agents that are based at selected MTN-branded stores, and we continue to recruit. We expect to have around 400 agents in all stores by the beginning of the second quarter of this year.”

In addition to store-based agents, MoMo will have non store-based agents that will help to facilitate registrations and cash-in and cash-out transactions across the country.

Customers have three options to register for MoMo. They can either self-register via USSD by dialling *120*151# and follow the voice prompts, or they can download the free MoMo app on the Google Play Store and self-register. The third option is for customers to register directly with a MoMo agent at any MTN-branded store.