Infrastructure frustrates Vodacom plans

Vodacom said its plans to provide an international money transfer through M-Pesa face various challenges, including lack of adequate supporting infrastructure such as overseas banks and mobile phone partners.

Voda, the largest mobile phone service provider in the country, said since the mobile phone money transfers were pioneered in the world by East African mobile phone firms, the same platform is not available in the first world.

Vodacom’s Chief Officer for M-Commerce Jacques Voogt said talks were underway with the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) to establish a way forward plus guidelines and platforms to carry out international mobile phone money transfers.

“We have to begin to walk before running.Then we are currently under discussions with the regulator to see how to implement the issue,” Mr Voogt said in Dar es Salaam. 

He also said the BoT and Voda talks centre on cross-border money transfers before embarking on the international route.

The challenges, according to him, were to make the cross-border systems between mobile phone and banks to talk. This needs to identify a partner bank and phone company at either side of the borders. 

Voda’s Head of Brand & Communication Mr Kevin Twissa said another challenge was that the idea of mobile phone banking basically originated from East Africa thus making it difficult to find a partner overseas.

“Actually, we (Vodacom), have to create the platform since it is a new concept in most of the developing world. And this is a real challenge,” Mr Twissa said. Mobile phone money transfer is a brain child of Safaricom Kenya, a Vodacom partner and it spread to other developing countries.

“It could be easier as we had a reference somewhere to act as our guide but we don’t have such thing, we have to create each and everything,” Mr Twissa said. 

By last November Voda’s M-Pesa customers reached over 4.4 million users across the country, or some 48 per cent of its total customer base in slightly over four years ago while M-Pesa agents are totalling 40,000.

Mobile phone money services are seen as a key ingredient to develop economic growth in the country and the Vodacom report is a positive sign that users are employing their mobile phone devices for that purpose.
Source: The Daily News, www.dailynews.co.tz, reported by Abduel Elinaza in Dar es Salaam 
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