LIVE FROM MOBILE 360 – AFRICA, KIGALI, RWANDA: Interoperability between providers and flexible know your customer (KYC) regulations were identified as two key initiatives needed to expand mobile money adoption by African enterprises.

During the Mobile Money Leadership Forum, operators and development organisations discussed the advantages of providing mobile money services to small-, medium- and micro-enterprises. But Matt Bohan, senior programme officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, noted interoperability between providers will be central to attracting these businesses.

“To get to the merchants you have to address 80 per cent of the market or more with a payments platform,” he said. “A few notable monopoly-level players aside, if you don’t have a monopoly today, you’re probably not going to get one. So to get to that level of market reach, you have to go down the interoperable road as an industry.”

In terms of being able to service the segment, Airtel Rwanda product manager Sharif Banamwana (pictured, left) said KYC regulations were a significant barrier, presenting compliance challenges which “many businesses are not able to meet” in terms of qualifying for a corporate service. To address this “we have to work closely with regulators,” he said.

Banamwana acknowledged there was a need to strike a balance between flexibility and safeguarding against criminal activity including money laundering and fraud, which KYC is designed to protect against.

He added the operator’s strategy was to try to mimic its enterprise platforms on mobile money services, noting it tried to be as flexible on costs as possible to address the “resistance to pricing” from many in the sector.

EcoCash CEO Natalie Jabangwe (pictured, centre) noted her company had introduced a specific business wallet for small and medium businesses in Zimbabwe.

She added it was also promoting “KYC-lite”, which eases the transition between formal and informal sectors, though this requires the buy-in of regulators and business forums.