Weekly Review September 5-9

There’s never a shortage of news surrounding mobile technology. This week we read about new applications and smartphones, mobile money launching in Liberia and Zimbabwe, and the changes in the relationships between banks and telcos because of the growing popularity in mobile payments globally.

Samsung launches Galaxy S II in Kenya” by Stewart Chabwinja via IT News Africa

There has been speculation that smartphones, which are coming down in price, will penetrate the African market and slowly replace “dumb phones.” Samsung Electronics has launched the Galaxy S II, an Android-powered smartphone in Kenya. It is expected that smartphones will drive Internet penetration in Kenya. Kenyans value their phones because of the many value-added services that leading mobile operators provide, most notably M-PESA and all of the other applications surrounding the mobile money transaction system.

12 Apps to Pitch at AppCircus in Nairobi” via Afrinnovator

iHub and Akirachix are bringing AppCircus to Nairobi, Kenya where 12 groups will pitch their apps in front of an international jury of industry experts. AppCircus is “a unique global traveling showcase of the most creative and innovative apps presented by their creators during some of the most influential international events in mobile/web.” The best apps will be nominated for the Mobile Premier Awards 2012, to be held during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. A list of the apps that are presenting is available at the end of the article. Some highlights include CrowdPesa, an app that locates M-PESA agents or ATMs in the local area, and 3GInnovators, an app that compares prices, ratings, and offers on products and services.

Liberia: Management of Lonestar Cell MTN, Ecobank – launched” via All Africa

The Central Bank of Liberia has given approval to Lonestar Cell MTN and Ecobank-Liberia to partner and provide a mobile money product in the Liberian market. The product platform is going by the simple title of “Mobile Money.” Lonestar Cell MTN is the largest mobile services provider and the first telco in Liberia. Mobile phone penetration is around 45% in Liberia, while fixed line penetration is less than 1%, due to unrepaired telephone lines damaged during wartime (stats via PPIAF). In addition, “only 10% of Liberians have bank accounts.” This, coupled with growing mobile penetration, presents an ideal market opportunity for mobile money.

Econet to deploy mobile payment system in Zimbabwe” via The Paypers

Econet Wireless, the largest telco in Zimbabwe, announced this week that it will be launching its mobile money service this month. The m-wallet is currently being piloted and will be live by the end of the month. In 2009, according to World Bank data, Zimbawe’s mobile penetration was around 3 million subscribers, or 25% of the population. In 2011, The Paypers reports that Econet’s customer base has grown to around 5 million since 2009. The market is experiencing explosive growth. Econet is capitalizing on the window of opportunity and leveraging its 73% market share. Its new mobile wallet can be used for purchases or transfers worth USD $20 or less.

Dreams of mobile payments lead telco to try banking” by Ryan Kim via Gigaom
In the never-ending effort to understand the complex world that is mobile payments, we often compare mobile payments in the developing world to banking in the developed world. The relationships between telcos and banks are reaching new, unprecedented stages. Already seen in Asia and Africa, telcos are acting like banks. In Canada, “mobile carrier Rogers has filed to become a bank under Canada’s federal Bank Act.” By doing this, Rogers will have the chance to earn a percentage of the revenue from payments transferred over a mobile phone. The mobile payments industry is expected “to become a $670 billion market by 2015,” (notably driven by developing countries, where mobile payments will double by 2015).  Although there are vast differences in banks between the developed and developing world, it seems that the gap may begin to close, as users tend to rely on their phones more often.

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