The two biggest mobile money operators in East Africa have joined forces.
Yesterday (April 21), Vodafone M-Pesa and MTN Mobile Money announced an agreement to interconnect their mobile money services, allowing customers of one to transfer and receive funds to and from customers of the other.
The collaboration will allow for international remittances between M-Pesa customers in Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique, and MTN Mobile Money customers in Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia.
M-Pesa, launched in March 2007 by Safaricom Limited in Kenya, enables millions of people who have access to a mobile phone — but not a bank account — to send and receive money. As of Dec. 31, 2014, the service had approximately 19.5 million customers and 250,000 agents globally. MTN, meanwhile, connects subscribers in 22 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and at the end of last year counted 223.4 million subscribers to its various operations.
As noted in a press release, MTN and Vodafone Group have formalized a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines terms under which the two companies will work together to define the rules and standards of mobile-based remittances in Africa.
“Our agreement with MTN to connect our mobile money wallets in East Africa is a fantastic example of co-operation and interoperability between competing mobile operators,” said Vodafone’s Director of Mobile Money, Michael Joseph, in the release. “By working together, we will deliver cheaper, faster money transfers, improving the lives of many people living in the seven countries involved.”
Also in the release, Serigne Dioum, Group Head of Mobile Financial Services at MTN, remarked, “After successful launches in Ivory Coast and Benin in West Africa, we are looking enthusiastically at the collaboration with Vodafone in East Africa. Together, we aim to build a scalable model that will accelerate remittance rollout across the continent.”