Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mobile Wallet or Mobile Payment: What Wins in South Africa?

Sparring between contestants in competitive markets is not unusual. Neither are arguments that one or another approaches will not work, or that some approaches are "better." So it isn't unusual that a provider of one method argues the other methods "won't work" in a particular market

Standard Bank operates its own virtual currency "mimoney," which consists of a voucher number delivered to the recipient's cell phone using a text message. SMS. The bank has also teamed up with retailer Spar on a peer-to-peer money transfer service, in which SMS vouchers are redeemed at Spar stores throughout the country. 

Explosive growth in pre-paid money vouchers in South Africa has killed the mobile wallet as a viable payment instrument, says Herman Singh, CEO of Beyond Payments, a unit of Standard Bank.

Singh says that over R100 billion is generated in sales of prepaid airtime and electricity annually, while over 2.5 million money vouchers valued at over R4050 each, are created and redeemed every month in South Africa.

There are a couple of noteworthy angles here, including the use of a virtual currency mechanism and simple text messaging for communications, as well as the prepaid method of payment.

There is, to be sure, a clear argument that the leading developments in developed markets now are different than in developing markets. Mobile wallets and retail payments are bigger in developed markets because "banking and payments" are not "problems," while in developing markets these are key issues.

Likewise, the preferred communication technologies in developed markets are different from developing markets. Text messaging is ubiquitous for users of feature phones that are typical in developing markets. Other technologies are feasible in developed markets where smart phones rapidly are becoming the norm.

As a rule, mobile commerce, including both mobile payments and mobile wallet components, is a bigger issue in developed regions, while mobile banking--in particular remote payment--is a bigger opportunity in developing regions.

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