By Bernard Mogaka
Last week, @BillGates tweeted this about mobile money: “Here is an innovation that I think will trickle up from developing countries to the rich world.”
In East Africa there are more mobile-based transactions than in any other part of the planet — thanks to large mobile network operators such as MTN’s Mobile Money, Safaricom’s Mpesa, Airtel Money and TigoPesa. In Uganda alone, over sh100b is transacted over mobile phones each day. One thing is for sure, Uganda Revenue Authority will be earning big from the 10% tax that Hon.
Maria Kiwanuka slapped on mobile money transactions for the 2014/2015 fiscal year. We can only hope that this will be injected back into the economy.
It all started with an idea spawned in Kenya and spread to Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, India and is now in Europe. Therefore, Gates, your tweet is not a prediction but is something already happening.
Mobile banking — different from mobile money — on the other hand, has already taken off around the globe. Many banks in the West and Asia have mobile banking apps that their customers can download free-of-charge and securely log into their bank accounts and carry out transactions. All this is done without setting foot in a bank.
To use the apps, one requires a smartphone, some savviness with the internet and some basic literacy to be able to navigate one’s way in the app. These are attributes that many of us in the developing world do not have.
In an effort to get their customers to bank using mobile phones in Uganda, banks have resorted to the text based USSD technology that works even on ‘kabiriti’ phones.
You simply dial a short code and you get the mobile banking menu. For example, Opportunity Bank’s *231#, Centenary’s *211#, Post Bank’s *260#, dfcu’s *240# and Standard Chartered’s *266#.
In time we shall start to see true financial inclusion through mobile money and mobile banking. Or shall we?
Right now all you can do on these services is make transfers and payments at a cost — a very biting one.
What about accessing credit facilities on phone, or banking your mobile money? This is a topic we will tackle in our next article, as we wait for Bill Gates’ next tweet to trickle down.... sorry — trickle up.
The writer is head of eBanking, dfcu Bank
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