What needs to be done beyond mobile money interoperability for more growth!

Digital wallets are poised to transform the way consumers shop and pay retailers, restaurants, and service providers. Early wallets are enabling the convergence of offers, coupons, loyalty and payments. Successful wallets will enhance the consumer’s commerce experience by delivering more value, greater convenience and a contextually relevant, compelling experience.

We’ve now entered a phase in the evolution of wallets that will attract new entrants from nearly every sector of commerce — from technology companies to financial institutions (FIs) to merchants. Although a few merchants have made their initial foray into the digital wallet space, others are grappling with what to do and most remain on the sidelines altogether ………Denee Carrington (A senior Forrester Researcher)

 While it has often been described as a money transfer product, when mobile money reaches scale it can also be seen as a network infrastructure and platform facilitating the exchange of cash and electronic value between various economic actors including clients, businesses, the government, and financial service providers.
…….. Jake Kendall, Bill Maurer, Phillip Machoka and Clara Veniard, Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 2011-14

There is not a day that passes here in Ghana when one wouldn’t hear an advert played on the radio talking about a mobile money service. If it’s not AirtelTiGO Money, then it’s MTN Mobile Money or the new entrant, Vodacash. Great strides have been made with respect to the number of mobile money transactions, as indicated by BoG reports. However, to sustain growth in the mobile money ecosystem there is a need for more value creation.

More growth can only be achieved and sustained when stakeholders are able to clearly see the value being created for them. Most subscribers agree that they have challenges with fulfilling their payment obligations on a daily basis – but are not fully convinced as to what exact value they will get in exchanging their leather wallets for a digital one.

Mobile money usage will increase when service providers do more by strategically positioning this payment option into the different value chains.

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Whoever thought that mobile phone communication would become so common in our country today? People of all social levels here in Ghana are hooked to the mobile phone. Why? Because they want to be in touch with family, friends, colleagues etc. The likes of AirtelTigo money and MTN Money need to highlight the consumer benefits to their target audience.

As we continue to create awareness, we should distance ourselves from the mere remittance advantage on the mobile money platform to more value-added service insertions that will bring more efficiency in revenue generation and cost-cutting for users: first for the merchants and then consumers.

Quicker Settlement for merchants
Within the payment value chain, I believe the shorter the chain the more attractive the mobile money ecosystem will be for merchants. Let’s think of ways in which we can easily handle settlements for merchants within our local markets who will decide to accept mobile money payment in their shops.

I think if there was seamless crediting of merchants’ bank accounts or other quick ways for them to have access to their cash when they need it, a lot more would have embraced mobile money by now.

I have been around these market-folk and spoken with them about their difficulties. Most of them are into retail business, which involves moving money around a lot. They sort of need cash all the time for inventory management. They sometimes have to restock twice in a day. Could there not be ways by which these merchants in Makola will bypass agents to cash out?

Agents closer to these merchants are constantly not having enough cash when the merchants need to cash out. Challenges such as this could deter merchants from embracing the mobile money payment option.

These merchants however agree that there is a high cost to handling cash and wish there were better alternatives, but how cheaper can it be for them if they are to accept mobile money as that alternative? As a subscriber, if the corner shop near my house accepts mobile money why wouldn’t I keep some e-value in my digital wallet to pay the next time I visit?

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Mobile Money and the Big Picture
If a careful consideration of the whole movement and handling of money for business and personal activities is done, we will appreciate what a great disservice we are doing to ourselves by not adopting innovative ways of carrying our monies around.

If our traders have alternatives and stop carrying huge sums of money on them when travelling all the way to rural communities to buy foodstuffs for the markets in our cities, and our transporters have alternative ways of getting paid for their services and our farmers get reimbursed for the sale of their produce, then as a people we would have created some efficiency in cash handling and movement within the food supply chain.

If this picture is clear in our minds then mobile money will not be limited to remittances or pay-bill modules, but will be seen as the backbone of an economic revolution – within the food distribution chain for example – across the entire country.

Mobile Money for Financial Inclusion
In our quest to get everybody into the financial system, mobile money can help largely. The bulk of our people do not depend on some paycheck handed over to them at the end of the month. They also do not have some huge profits coming out of their businesses to pay themselves and some staff.

The bank, obviously, is not a friend to the majority of us; our incomes are also not regular. In some cases, we only make total daily sales of GH¢12. The banks would not want to deal with us; but mobile money can mop-up deposits and enable withdrawals at this level of our social setting – and by that bring us into the banking bracket, too.

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