MTN and Vodacom get set to topple cash from its throne

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MTN and Vodacom get set to topple cash from its throne

Mobile money has failed in SA before, but operators are determined to spread the financial services net wider

Nick Hedley


Mobile money has failed in SA before, but there is no reason why MTN can’t make it work the second time around.
In 2016, both MTN and Vodacom pulled the mobile money service after it failed to gain enough traction. The reasoning was that SA had a far higher rate of financial inclusion than other African markets where the service had taken off.
But MTN CEO Rob Shuter is convinced the company can “make it work”. It is cash-based transactions he’s looking to replace, and there is certainly no shortage of those.
A 2017 study by MasterCard showed that the use of physical cash cost consumers R23bn, or 0.52%, of the country’s gross domestic product in 2015.
In the same year, as many as 77% of SA adults were banked, yet cash transactions still made up more than 50% of all consumer transactions in the country. As is often the case, the poor are most affected. In SA’s township economies in particular, cash is king, at least for now.
MTN mobile money services will be relaunched in the group’s home market in the first quarter of 2019.
Vodacom has no such plans. CEO Shameel Joosub says the operator has rather chosen to create an over-the-top type of platform for financial services.
“Our financial services business in SA has grown about 400% in the past 18 months. You can pay for services like you do with M-Pesa but it’s linked to your card at the back,” he said last week.
While their approaches are slightly different, the growth of mobile financial services will ultimately benefit consumers and society as a whole.

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