MTN, Orange partner to drive mobile money in Africa

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The Mowali digital payment infrastructure connects financial service providers and customers in one inclusive network.
The Mowali digital payment infrastructure connects financial service providers and customers in one inclusive network.

Two of Africa's largest mobile operators and mobile money providers, MTN and Orange, have entered a mobile wallet interoperability (Mowali) joint venture to enable interoperable payments across the continent.

The operators say Mowali makes it possible to send money between mobile money accounts issued by any mobile money provider, in real-time and at low cost.

This comes as MTN, Africa's biggest mobile network provider with about 24.1 million active mobile money users across 14 markets, announced this month it is re-launching its Mobile Money service in SA.

Earlier this year, MTN CEO Rob Shuter revealed his ambitious plan for the mobile operator to become Africa's biggest bank.

Mowali will immediately benefit from the reach of MTN Mobile Money and Orange Money, bringing together over 100 million mobile money accounts and operations in 22 of Sub-Saharan Africa's 46 markets, the operators say.

They add that Mowali is ready to enable interoperability between digital financial service providers beyond MTN and Orange operations and markets, to support the existing 338 million mobile money accounts in Africa.

According to GSM Association, last year, mobile money transactions in Sub-Saharan Africa reached $19.9 billion; 63% of the global figure.

It points out that in 2017, the global mobile money industry processed transactions to the tune of $1 billion a day and generated direct revenue of over $2.4 billion, and Sub-Saharan Africa has been identified as a leading market in this regard.

MTN and Orange describe Mowali as a digital payment infrastructure that connects financial service providers and customers in one inclusive network. It functions as an industry utility, open to any mobile money provider in Africa, including banks, money transfer operators and other financial service providers, they note.

The objective of Mowali is to increase the usage of mobile money by consumers and merchants, the operators say.

Mowali enables money to circulate freely between mobile money accounts from any operator in all countries, they add.

"By providing full interoperability between platforms, Mowali will provide an important step forward that will allow mobile money to become a universal means of payment in Africa," says St'ephane Richard, chairman and CEO of Orange.

"Increasing financial inclusion through the use of digital technology is an essential element in furthering the economic development of Africa, particularly for more isolated communities. By joining forces with another of Africa's market leaders, MTN, we aim to accelerate the pace of this transformation in a way that will change the lives of our customers by providing them with simpler, safer and more advantageous services."

"One of MTN's goals is to accelerate the penetration of mobile financial services in Africa, and Mowali is one such vehicle that will help us achieve that objective," says MTN's Shuter.

"Furthermore, co-operation and partnerships that help us accelerate the pace of development and overcome some of the scale, scope and complexity of challenges that society faces are key. This partnership with Orange is, therefore, an important step in helping us play a meaningful role in supporting the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals related to eliminating extreme poverty and enhancing socio-economic development in the markets we operate in and beyond."

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