THE French multinational telecom firm, Orange, and its South African-based counterpart MTN, have made their mobile money services in Africa interoperable, allowing 100 million people in 46 countries to make payments.
The new interconnection is called Mowali – an abbreviation for mobile wallet interavailability – but it is not clear whether that will become a consumer brand.
At the moment the companies 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.’
Orange CEO Stéphane Richard said the company was already transforming Africa. ‘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.’
Rob Shuter, group president and CEO of MTN, said the partnership is ‘an important step in helping us play a meaningful role in supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals related to eliminating extreme poverty and enhancing socio-economic development in the markets we operate in and beyond.’
The companies said they were ready for other operators to join the partnership. ‘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.’
GSMA, the trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide, has already said it welcomes the move. ‘Today, there are over 690 million mobile money accounts around the world,’ said director general Mats Granryd. ‘The creation of Mowali will help to further transform mobile financial services throughout the African region. It demonstrates the mobile industry’s continued leadership and commitment to driving financial inclusion and economic empowerment through industry collaboration.’
Kosta Peric, deputy director of financial services for the poor at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, noted that Mowali is an implementation of Mojaloop, an open source payment platform that is available to operators across the sector.
‘This is a signal that a new wave of innovation, which can help alleviate poverty and drive economic opportunity, is coming,’ said Peric, who spent 23 years with the banking sector’s Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.