As of 2009, the African continent – with 61 territories and 14,8% of the world's human population – has more than a billion mouths to feed. With high mobile penetration rates, it's just a matter of time before a mobile payment platform becomes a reality.
“It’s easy to see why the retail sector’s mouth is watering at the prospect of mobile payments,” says David Reynders, MD of Pocit.
According to Tariff Consultancy’s survey of 34 emerging markets, mobile penetration rates will rise from 46% in 2008 to 95% by 2013.
“Even if this prediction were regarded as overly optimistic, I believe retailers will be eyeing the billion-strong African consumer market, wondering whether the cellphone will be their foot in the door,” says Reynders. “The excellent security characteristics of mobile payment platforms, combined with the always-on, always-with-you ubiquity of the handsets themselves makes the mobile payments market an extremely attractive sales channel/payment mechanism.”
With so many potential players out there ready to pounce on Africa’s golden goose, Reynders believes open cellphone payment platforms that are network- and bank-independent will be the most beneficial to consumers and merchants.
“Merchants and consumers want anytime, anywhere payments – to and from anyone. And the any/any/any world doesn’t, and cannot afford to, care which bank you’re with or which network operator you are subscribed to,” Reynders says.
His view is that corporate sponsors like large merchants are unlikely to invest in payment systems that, for parochial reasons, can’t offer sufficient coverage. In a fragmented market the open, independent platform is most likely to offer what the market (consumers and merchants) and acquiring banks need – secured, ubiquitous access to payments.
"No doubt network operators and banks will try to become the de-facto standard and lock large portions of the market into their particular platform using excellent arguments about security and the benefits of brand loyalty. It’s important to understand that mobile payment security is not a function of being linked to a particular bank.
"However, the success and ubiquity of mobile payments is a direct function of being built on an open platform. While mobile payments will require security standards and protocols, a shared platform that anyone can access from anywhere at any time will be crucial to a flourishing mobile payments market that meets the needs of consumers,” Reynders says.