One of the major themes running through the mobile money discussions at Africa.com was how mobile money creates an intersection of banking and MNO (Mobile Network Operator) services.
The big question to come out of this is, ‘Can the banks and the MNOs work together or are they competitors when it comes to mobile money?’
There are many factors that make a mobile money initiative successful in a given region. Banks and MNOs both have their own advantages in this regard. Banks have the experience when it comes to providing financial services. They know how to create and market financial service products and have the size and scope to back up their financial offerings and manage the risk.
MNOs on the other hand have the reach. They have penetration within Africa that is unrivalled by any other service, with huge markets of rural, unbanked customers who are looking for a quick and easy way to manage their money.
While much of Africa still remains unbanked, mobile penetration has skyrocketed in the past few years. It would therefore seem like a natural step for the banks and the MNOs to work together to provide a money management solution to these people. So why has there not yet been one example of a financial institution and a MNO working symbiotically to provide the solution. This comes down to another much trickier question, ‘Who owns the customer?’
If a customer manages their money using financial services from Bank A on their SIM card from MNO B whose customer are they? Can they move their account to a different bank while keeping the same SIM? Can they change phones without affecting their mobile money account?
Until the banks and MNOs can get together and solve these questions they will not be able to work together to provide the solutions that are needed.