9 Oct 2015

Interview with Charles Niehaus, Consultant in Mobile Money at the International Finance Corporation

Charles Niehaus is Consultant Mobile Money at the InternationalFinance Corporation (IFC), part of World Bank Group. He will be a speaker in the Mobile Money programme at AfricaCom this year, with a case study on achieving interoperability through mobile financial services in Tanzania. Here’s a chance to hear from him before the event

AfricaCom: Tanzania has led the way with interoperability. What role have IFC played in facilitating this process ?  
Charles Niehaus: IFC has been the neutral broker for the industry on mobile money interoperability. This involved initial engagement with the operators to gauge interest, liaising with the Central Bank of Tanzania to facilitate an industry led process, initiating a market demand study to asses interest from consumers and agents, all leading up to facilitated workshops which unpacked the details around exactly what interoperability means and how it could work.

 A: Interoperability was once perceived as a technical challenge but in Tanzania it would appear that creating a set of regulations has been the main facilitator – who has been involved in the process?
CN: Technology enables interoperability to happen, but without a set of overarching rules operators have little legal certainty on how the business or interoperability will work. The process in Tanzania covered facilitated workshops which unpacked firstly which use cases to start with, and once these were agreed each use case was broken down into the traditional components that scheme rules or ACH rules cover. These included the participation criteria, business models, clearing and settlement arrangements, disputes, and risk and loss allocation. The outcome was a set of rules for each use case which all participants who decide to join the interoperability scheme adhere to. It is important to note that the operating rules and payment regulations are not the same thing and often get confused. Payment Regulations are set at a market level for all participants in the national payments environment, while operating rules for a particular payment scheme have to adhere to the national payment regulations but are only enforceable between the participants.

A: Have all of the operators in Tanzania bought in to these set of regulations ?  
CN: The rules (not regulation) for Person to Person transfers have been signed and implemented by Airtel, Tigo and Zantel. Vodacom is in the process of joining but has not signed to date (Sep 2015).

A: What role did the Bank of Tanzania play in facilitating the development of interoperability in Tanzania ?
CN: The regulations in Tanzania created an enabling environment for industry participants to create a set of practical and applicable rules. BoT endorsed the process. It is important to note that BoT did not mandate the process or implementation as other central banks have done.

A: How does interoperability facilitate financial inclusion ?
CN: Interoperability is a means to an end and not and end in itself. Whilst mobile money interoperability is still in its infancy, parallel industries have shown that interoperability increases uptake and transaction volume. From a financial inclusion perspective this would mean more access points and transactional availability for individuals as well as adding to the journey of cash digitisation.

A: Is Tanzania now enjoying the mobile money boom that Kenya had and which other African countries do you think might be able to embrace interoperability in the future ?
CN: Many African markets have tried to replicate the Kenyan example with varying levels of success. The recently published World Bank Group Findex 2014 data show a very positive development in Tanzania with regards to financial inclusion, with 40 percent of the population now with access to a formal bank account compared to 17 percent in 2011. In some regards, Tanzania’s journey has been even faster than that of Kenya and Tanzania was the first industry-led and decided interoperability implementation in Africa (the others were primarily regulatory mandated or vendor driven). It may still be premature to agree what the exact correct approach to interoperability will be, but to date Tanzania is showing promising signs and is a step towards even greater progress.

 The Mobile Money programme will take place on Tuesday 17th and Wednesday 18th November at AfricaCom (CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa). 

Interview with Dave Woolnough, Nedbank Ltd

Dave Woolnough is Executive: Digital and Mobile Retail at NedbankLimited. He will be joining a Regulatory Panel on nurturing innovation whilst maintaining regulation, part of the Mobile Money programme at AfricaCom. He shares his views ahead of the event.

AfricaCom: How does your company fit in the mobile money eco-system and what are its future ambitions?
Dave Woolnough: As a large Banking Institution, Nedbank utilises its own and other third party solutions. Mobile money is a key enabler in Nedbank’s strategy. Future ambitions are to enhance existing capabilities and partner smartly with leading market players.

A: What would you say are the main challenges that mobile financial services in Africa need to overcome in the short to mid-term?
DW: Interoperability across solutions: we can’t have ‘thousands’ of different applications with different capabilities and fulfilment processes. Short term need to drive up adoption from the consumers and the merchants, adoption is still very low in Africa. Need to solve for the lower end of the market. Mobile money solutions in South Africa are largely for Middle Market clients.

A: Has the talk of cashless societies been overhyped and how do you view the role of cash in society in the short to mid-term?
DW: No, I do believe a form of cashless society will be a reality in time. The financial institutions who embrace this and get high adoption will have a competitive edge.

A: How do you feel regulators should foster innovation in the mobile payment space? Is there too much flexibility or too much regulation at present?
DW: There is a lot of regulation, which I believe could be more practically applied to the various channels. The bigger problem is that the regulation is not consistently applied across all service providers.

A: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities to banks with the evolution of the mobile money revolution ?
DW: The bank who really gets this right and can service all segments of the market will have a significant strategic advantage.

The Mobile Money programme will take place on Tuesday 17th and Wednesday 18th November at AfricaCom (CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa). 

8 Oct 2015

Telecoms Academy Executive Training at AfricaCom 2015 - 16-20 November 2015, Cape Town

We are pleased to announce that Telecoms Academy will be running the Telecoms Mini MBA executive training programme alongside this year's AfricaCom 2015.

16-20 November 2015, Cape Town at AfricaCom

The Telecoms Mini MBA is a 5-day university accredited telecoms management programme from the leaders in telecom training, analysis and research. The programme has been attended by over 5,000 professionals from 350 companies worldwide. Some of the leading operators, vendors, services, and regulators in the global telecoms industry have sent delegates to the programme.

It is highly participative, focusing on real business, technology and industry issues and designed to give you a critical understanding of the key competency areas required for success within the telecommunications industry – enabling you to make more informed and commercially viable strategic decisions. The business simulation is the vehicle through which we maximise the competency development and ensure ideas on strategic implementation can be tested and appraised.

The programme covers the five key competency areas of:
- Strategy & Business Environment
- Technology
- Finance
- Leadership & People Management
- Marketing & Customer Focus

Special Guest Speaker: Alan Knott-Craig Jr, Founder of Project Isizwe
We are also pleased to announce that Alan Knott-Craig Jr. will be guest speaker at the Telecoms Mini MBA. He will give a unique insight into what Project Isizwe does; how many people now have Internet access through it; who uses the Internet through its coverage and what they use it for; how the business model works; what the municipalities are charged; and his plans for rolling out outside of South Africa.

Information about the Telecoms Mini MBA and details of how to register can be found at:

“MFS in Africa need to keep welcoming innovation” Interview of Elizabeth Rossiello, Bitpesa

Elizabeth Rossiello is CEO and founder of Bitpesa, the first company in the world to link mobile money to Bitcoin. Based in Kenya since 2009, she knows financial services from the Mara to the Board room. 
Elisabeth will join a panel discussion on the future of international remittance services in the Mobile Money programme at AfricaComthis year. She share her thoughts on the subject ahead of the event.

AfricaCom: When and why did BitPesa start and how has your growth been since inception?
Elizabeth Rossiello: BitPesa was founded in Kenya in October 2013 just before Bitcoin gained global attention.  Since then we have expanded into 4 countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria) and had over $2M in transactions in the last few months.  We have connected into some of the best mobile money systems across the continent, as well as gained direct access to bank accounts.  Many international businesses use us to pay salaries to their staff in sub-Saharan Africa, making it easier and more efficient to do business in the region.  Some of them have expanded into new countries because our infrastructure was available.

A: What does bitPesa offer the man on the street in East Africa and how has it been received ?
ER: A way to grow their business.  Using BitPesa, they can order things internationally, pay suppliers abroad, or receive payments or salaries from global employers.  It brings East and West Africans into the global marketplace at a low-cost, with a low-barrier to entry. 

A: What would you say are the main challenges that mobile financial services in Africa need to overcome in the short to mid-term?
ER: MFS in Africa need to keep welcoming innovation.  While the African mobile money story was groundbreaking, innovation did not stop thereafter. There are new types of internet/cloud based payments systems, open source apps, and decentralized systems that are pushing the boundary on what we now know.  I think the incredible success of some mobile money systems has made some hesitant to change.   

A: Has the talk of cashless societies been over-hyped and how do you view the role of cash in society in the short to mid-term?
ER: In the last 7 years living in Kenya, I have used increasingly less cash every day.  In fact, I can go months without touching cash. This is the same as when I travel to NY. There are certainly some countries I travel to, like Nigeria, where cashless transactions are everywhere over a certain minimum amount, but there is still no omnipresent low-value cashless transfer system.  As data costs and smartphone penetration increase I think cashless societies are a sure bet in the next 5 years. 

A: How do you feel regulators should foster innovation in the mobile payment space? Is there too much flexibility or too much regulation at present?
ER: It certainly depends on the country and regulator. However, I would love to see more open dialogue between regulators and start-ups working on the latest innovation.  It can be quite difficult to receive clear guidance from some regulators, despite our best efforts to communicate and reach out.  While many regulators do not immediately outlaw innovation if there is no explicit guideline, companies can spend years without any clear statement from regulators.  This affects how investors and new entrants view the ecosystem and scares away potential vectors of growth. 

A: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities to BitPesa with the evolution of the mobile money revolution ?
ER: We are excited to see mobile money ecosystems continue to grow.  We work with and depend on several different mobile money ecosystems and find it very complimentary to our own business.  I would love to see MNOs be more open to start-ups and let them also have open avenues to work together and cooperate on new products. 

A: What will be the focus of your discussions at Mobile Money at Africa Com  ?

ER: I would like to share a bit about the development of global regulation on distributed ledger systems, like Bitcoin, and discuss the traction our company has made in terms of complementing local mobile money ecosystems.  

The Mobile Money programme will take place on Tuesday 17th and Wednesday 18th November at AfricaCom (CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa). For more information on topics covered and speakers click here