South Africa remains one of the most diverse regions in Africa for its proliferation of successful mobile money business models being championed by banks, MNOs (mobile network operators), third party providers and retailers. 
This is according to Emma Pearce, director of the upcoming, annual Mobile Money Africa conference and exhibition, which will again gather the continent’s leading industry experts in Johannesburg from 28 to 29 May.
“We have seen some of the most compelling mobile payments case studies come from South Africa and the market continues to reinvent itself and innovate its offerings. Johannesburg is the perfect backdrop for Mobile Money Africa, as it is one of the foremost economic hubs of Southern Africa: a melting pot of business models and market leaders.
“The event will challenge preconceptions regarding mobile money in Africa and introduce innovators driving the marketplace forward,” says Pearce.
Brian Richardson, WIZZIT CEO, and a mobile money industry pioneer from South Africa tells us that a recent development which has been “incredibly exciting” is the level of interest from banks in emerging markets.
“Up until now, the stance of many banks has been to wait and see and as we are all aware, they have had many other pressing priorities to address. There is an enormous amount of ‘noise’ in the mobile banking space and a lot of unsubstantiated hype which causes confusion for everyone,” he says.
“South Africa is a tough market – dominated by four very large and very powerful entities. It is also an interesting market in that not only has the market grown up with a card paradigm, but South Africa has a very well developed card acquiring infrastructure. This is not typically the case in other emerging markets where the opportunity of leap frogging the card paradigm is very much more real.
“A mobile acquiring infrastructure for a start can be deployed at a fraction of the cost.”
Richardson believes that in South Africa mobile will always be supported by card (or vice versa)
“It will be very difficult to ignore card totally. We have believed that the two channels can work together. According to Finscope, the number of people using mobile banking has almost doubled in the past year which is very encouraging indeed.
“By contrast, the number of people using Internet banking increased by 1%. The challenge in South Africa remains at the unbanked level and much work remains to be done. Mobile can certainly play a role in this.”
Richardson is a speaker at the Mobile Money Africa event which will bring together some 400 industry leaders from the entire spectrum of the industry, including retailers, regulators, banks, MNOs, microfinance institutions, donor agencies and NGOs to discuss collaboration, moving the market forward and the different business models for the industry.
“At the end of the day, the product or service offering has to meet the needs and demands of the market; it has to be affordable; and it has to meet the financial and strategic objectives of the service provider. There are still today question marks as to the business case around mobile money but there is no doubt about the potential in the industry.
“Mobile banking has proved over the last few years that it has a place and that it is here to stay.”
More programme highlights at Mobile Money Africa this year include:
* Betty Mwangi-Thuo, chief officer – New Products, Safaricom;
* Habil Olaka, CEO, Kenya Bankers Association;
* Albert Matongela, leader – Southern Africa Development Community Bankers Association Payment Project (SADC BA Payment Project), FNB Namibia;
* Francis Matseketsa, EcoCash executive, Econet Services;
* Ngoni Simelane, head: Technology & Innovation; Beyond Payments, Standard Bank;
* Eli Hini, Mobile Money commercial senior manager, MTN Ghana;
* Vanesha Palani, head: Channel Management; Nedbank Digital, Nedbank;
* Lowell Campbell, Branchless/Agent Banking, Standard Bank Africa;
* Yolande van Wyk, CEO – eWallet Solutions, FNB Retail; and
* Charles Inwani, Regional Cash And Voucher programme officer, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).