Ghana’s Mobile Revolution: Driving Mobile Payments and Services

Imagine what it means to have a business that can possibly be accessed and utilised by over 82 million people. Imagine a world where transactions can be very remote yet very convenient, a world where you can sit at the comfort of your home or office to pay for services. Increasingly, there is a growing trend where you see villages urbanising and towns becoming more cosmopolitan. Cities are becoming closely knitted and rather chaotic. There is a growing trend of multitasking insanity and everybody seems to be about everything.

mobile money transfer
transferring value from phone

What one can make out of this miasma of confusion in our society is a growing yearning for convenience, privacy and security. A whole new convenience economy whose supply and demand models can only be established on a platform that makes it possible to have convenience, security and privacy has emerged.

Businesses are now looking for new alternatives to meet the demands of the convenience economy. Eventually, the question innovators and business minds have asked is, what, where and how can the needs of the convenience economy be met most efficiently and cost-effectively? The answer to this question has led to the Mobile Revolution, where businesses are using the mobile phone as an alternate medium to offer their customers services and products.

Ghana has not been left out of this revolution. Major telecom service providers in the country are rolling out a mobile payment solution one way or the other. Apart from the Telcos there is active local participation by some Ghanaian companies. One such company is DreamOval limited, a company started by Ashesi Graduates and developing cutting edge mobile and internet software solutions. DreamOval is set to release their mobile and internet payment platform, i-wallet (  i-wallet is a payment solution that enables people to make payments using the internet or their mobile phones. MTN is also gaining quite some grounds with its mobile money platform. Recently Zain launched its Zap service for everyday mobile payment transactions.

Ghana’s model is one that has gained slower traction than expected even though the players are pumping a lot of advertising dollars in a bid to get people using their services. The reasons why Ghana’s model has not gained ground are many and varied. One reason could be our blind copying of the Kenyan Model. Kenya has succeeded on the mobile money transfer front because of the strong ties between urban dwellers and their rural folks and strong local money transfer economy that was already dominant.

Contrary to the Kenyan model, Internal Money Transfer might not necessarily be a dominant local activity in Ghana. As a Ghanaian I have grown to appreciate that we like personal interaction and also love to see the reaction of persons to whom we do good. I daresay that mobile money transfer would let the person sending the money have that personal and physical experience. PSPs have to mimic money use and its dynamics in Ghana. The begging question is What Do Ghanaians Use Money for?

Any mobile payment strategy should answer the above question.  The Ghana model should be pushed on the front of money-mimicking, that is, payment for services and products as opposed to money transfers. To achieve this, Payment Service Providers should be willing to collaborate and integrate into third party enablers and platforms. Stakeholders including government should open up the mobile service innovation space. This would also mean that mobile telecommunication service providers should open up more and be willing to work with and handhold local establishments who provide services in the mobile space. There also need to be massive improvement in mobile infrastructure and services generated especially Internet.

Further, I believe Bank of Ghana has a huge role to play by properly and clearly defining the role of the banks and their mandate in the mobile payments process chain. There should be sustainable effort to design proper licensing models for potential service providers

Finally, it is about time we took the issue of standards very importantly. It is very normal for an industry to emerge in Ghana without complimentary standards to ensure quality of service to its customers or integration and enabling of third party services. This trend has made it rather daunting for industries to grow into world class industries. This situation of lack of standards and inability to enforce existing standards make it difficult for Ghanaian companies to compete globally.

It is our time and we need to take strategic steps to not let the mobile revolution elude Ghana and for that matter, the entire Africa.