In Africa, Money not necessary for mobile banking

Necessity, they say is the mother of invention. It couldn’t be more true in case of Africa, where pre-paid airtime is fast becoming the ‘virtual’ currency for Pan-African trade, overcoming conventional currency exchange and lack of banking infrastructure. It started out as phone users in Nigeria, especially in the rural areas trading minutes, but then the transactions took a mercantile trend.

Instead of paying cash, people started paying in airtime. Minutes became moolah and since the trend has caught on, and is being used for cross border trade as well.

The First National Bank started mobile division, Celpay, and others like Barclays are thinking about setting up m-banking. Wizzit, a division of South Africa Bank of Athens has processed more than 250,000 transactions in less than 24 months.

There are over 100 million mobile phones in Africa, and it is one of the fastest growing mobile regions. This number will increase to 378 million by 2011, according to Portio Research.

telecom info africa mobile forecast

This story is a perfect example of how communications can transform societies, especially mobile phones. In the past, I have written about the profound impact of mobile phones on the Indian society, and other emerging mobile regions like Bangladesh and Philippines (Watch video.) While, most in the developed world fret about developing elegant and complex mobile transaction systems – folks who need mobile banking figure out things on their own. Using a little bit of common sense.

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