Orange, MTN Launch New Mobile Money Operability Solution In Africa


French telecommunications firm Orange and mobile network operator MTN have announced a joint venture, Mowali (mobile wallet interoperability), to enable interoperable payments across the continent.

Mowali is described as a digital payment infrastructure that connects financial service providers and customers in one inclusive network.

“It functions as an industry utility, open to any mobile money provider in Africa, including banks, money transfer operators and other financial service providers,” reads a statement issued by the partners.

The companies claim Mowali makes it possible to send money between mobile money accounts issued by any mobile money provider “in real time and at low cost.”

The partners add that Mowali “will immediately benefit from the reach of MTN Mobile Money and Orange Money, bringing together over 100 million mobile money accounts and mobile money operations in 22 of sub-Saharan Africa’s 46 markets.”

The offering is being positioned to support what is suggests is an existing 338 million mobile money accounts in Africa.

Koffi Kouakou, analyst and senior lecturer at Wits University, believes the partnership will be significant given both companies’ extensive footprint and the volume and size of their respective operations – albeit a late move in the space.

“Both have come to the party a bit late. The French are a bit elitist in their innovation, they don’t move as fast as the English-speaking world. But when they do decide to do something, they put their grit into it and make it happen. I think MTN will also push the innovation. So, definitely a significant partnership in the short-to-medium term. The risk to the consumer could come in if the companies decide to split at some point in the future.”

Stéphane Richard, Chairman & CEO of Orange, said, “Increasing financial inclusion through the use of digital technology is an essential element in furthering the economic development of Africa, particularly for more isolated communities. This solution embodies Orange’s ambition to be a leading player in the digital transformation of the continent. By joining forces with another of Africa’s market leaders, MTN, we aim to accelerate the pace of this transformation in a way that will change the lives of our customers by providing them with simpler, safer and more advantageous services.”

Rob Shuter, Group President and CEO of MTN, said, “One of MTN’s goals is to accelerate the penetration of mobile financial service in Africa, Mowali is one such vehicle that will help us achieve that objective.”

Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA, added, “Today, there are over 690 million mobile money accounts around the world. Mobile money services have become an essential, life-changing tool across Africa, providing access to safe and secure financial services but also to energy, health, education and employment opportunities. The creation of Mowali will help to further transform mobile financial services throughout the African region.”

Global market research and analysis firm Forrester predicts that in 2019, digital banks will “take millions of customers from established banks”.

In its Predictions 2019: Financial Services report, the company asserts that fully digital banks will make progress and achieve scale next year.

“Established banks will see customers, transactions, and deposits steadily flow away as younger and tech-savvy customers and small businesses start paying their salaries into, and moving the management of their finances to, the more convenient services offered by leading digital banks,” reads an excerpt from the report.