It is some measure of the new services revenue challenge now facing communications service providers in the developed regions that mobile payment and mobile banking are serious initiatives.
By way of comparison, machine to machine services--using the mobile network as the communications link for sensors--is a no-brainer. Selling access and capacity to firms that need to monitor processes is quite closely related to selling access and capacity to humans who want to talk, text or surf the Internet.
But mobile services providers are pursuing a number of initiatives simultaneously, looking for the home runs among a variety of proposed new ventures. Mobile payments and mobile banking and mobile financial services are among those key efforts.
A new partnership between Orange and Total will provide “Orange Money” services to the operator’s customers at all Total service stations in all African and Middle-Eastern countries where the two groups are present and Orange Money is available.
That includes Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Niger, Senegal and Uganda.
Orange Money is Orange’s payment and money transfer service for Africa and the Middle-East. It enables Orange customers to transfer money from mobile to mobile, to pay bills and withdraw and deposit money through a network of certified distributors.
The deal illustrates the key role played by retail infrastructure in supporting mobile banking operations. As consumers need a place to recharge their usage balances, they also need a place to convert cash to mobile payment credit, or redeem such credit for actual cash.
And that’s where the network of Total gas stations plays a key role. Total service stations are open for extended hours seven days a week and become, in effect, branch bank sites, where people can open an Orange Money account and perform withdrawals and deposits.
This first stage of the partnership is already operational in Senegal and Cameroon, and will go live in over 1300 service stations in the 11 other countries where both groups are present in the second half of 2013.
A second stage will follow, which should enable Orange Money customers to pay for purchases made in TOTAL service stations using their mobile account.
Mobile service providers already have discovered the strategic value of retail distribution for success of any mobile money initiative in Africa.