LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 AFRICA: Zahir Khoja, VP, global channels at MasterCard, said Africa is attractive as an untapped opportunity and warned many companies think they can implement a “plug and play solution” without realising that “sometimes there is no socket” to do this. Instead they need to understand that an African-specific solution is needed.
“Africa needs Africa,” said Khoja (pictured). “We need to bring the experience of people who understand local issues.”
Moreover, while it may appear that mobile operators can reach out to their customers with mobile wallets, Khoja claims it’s not that simple. “There are two sides to the equation. How will customers use mobile wallets? Is it going to solve a problem?”
The other challenge in Africa, according to the MasterCard executive, is that it’s not just about giving people access to mobile phones and mobile point-of-sale devices but educating them on how to use them, “otherwise the ecosystem will fall apart.”
Khoja also believes that financial inclusion in Africa will take time. He pointed out that 85 per cent of the world still transacts in cash.
Meanwhile, Generose Tabaro, manager, oversight and policy department, Bank of Tanzania, echoed Khoja’s sentiments when she said that Tanzania has taken lessons and ideas from all over the world but ultimately adapted solutions that are specific to the country.
She spoke about the development of the national financial inclusion framework in her country, where before 1999 cash was the dominant way transactions were made.
However, by 2012, 60 per cent of the country’s population were registered as mobile phone users
This drove the take-up of mobile financial services for which 26.8 million users registered, 7.8 million of which were active.
In Tanzania, she said, the legal and regulatory framework supports the development of mobile financial services which creates an enabling environment for the services to function smoothly
However, despite some successes, challenges include low level of knowledge and awareness of financial inclusion among different stakeholders as well as bureaucratic legal reforms – which can sometimes hamper the process.
Carol Caruso, global head, SVP channels & technology, Accion, also spoke at the session, where she said that the company’s Center for Financial Inclusion had partnered with The Economist to carry out research on regulatory environments around the world and found that Tanzania was the only African country in the list of top 10 countries with an enabling environment. Other countries included Peru, Colombia and Philippines.