New mobile money product for Congo, as competition heats up across Africa

Patrick Ngabonziza, CEO of mobile payments company MobiCash, has contact numbers in eight African countries listed on his email signature – evidence of the firm’s growing footprint on the continent.

Headquartered in Mauritius, MobiCash offers banking and payment solutions to people without access to traditional financial services institutions. MobiCash last week announced that it has launched a mobile money service in the Republic of the Congo, also called Congo-Brazzaville. The service was introduced in partnership with mobile network operator Warid Congo.

“We were approached by Warid [because] they wanted to bring something additional to their network and to be in front of the other operators,” Dragan Sobota, project manager at MobiCash Africa, told How we made it in Africa in an interview. Warid Congo has more than 400,000 active subscribers.

Warid MobiCash customers are able to make secure cashless transactions from any mobile phone. Users can deposit and withdraw money through a network of agents. Sobota says that Warid Congo will effectively be the super agent.

Interestingly, the service will be available across all mobile networks in the Congo. This is because the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa – comprising Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of the Congo and Gabon – does not allow for mobile money services to only operate on one network. Sobota says that Warid customers will, however, benefit from cheaper transfer fees.

The MobiCash service has a number of authentication platforms to combat fraud. These include Near Sound Data Transfer (NSDT), fingerprint, Near Field Communication (NFC) and voice biometric technologies.

According to Sobota, MobiCash generates revenue by taking a fee on all money transfers as well as through bill payments for electricity, airtime top-ups, etc.

“The banking system as we know it today is the most dividing and exclusive system in the society,” commented MobiCash CEO Patrick Ngabonziza. “Money should be identified to human right and dignity and transactions should be available to all citizens. For Warid and MobiCash unserved doesn’t mean unservable and our partnership aims at extending financial services to all Congolese, thus deepening the financial sector.”

Increasing competition

Since Safaricom’s M-Pesa service kick-started the mobile money revolution in Africa, the space has become more competitive with numerous network operators, banks and other companies, such as MobiCash, entering the industry.

Last week South Africa’s FNB Bank said that its eWallet product has seen significant growth in Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho and Zambia. eWallet allows FNB account holders to send money to anyone within the borders of the country in which the service operates. The recipient does not need a bank account. The money is transferred instantly and the recipient uses a pin code sent to their mobile phone to access the cash from FNB ATMs.

One of the limitations of many mobile payment services in Africa is that they are restricted to specific networks, bank customers or country borders. However, this could soon change. Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper recently reported that global payments company Visa will launch a cross-border mobile money platform in Africa. According to the newspaper, the platform will be available to all mobile users, irrespective of their network.