Mobile payments has taken the attention of many firms globally from mobile network operators, credit card providers and others looking to benefit from the mobile lifestyles of the worlds 5 billion plus connected consumers. MasterCard, Visa, Western Union, PayPal and a host of startups are dabbling in the space with each jostling for leadership position in a billion dollar market opportunity.
Square a US based payment platform that went live with a C2B mobile payments proposition in February 2009; that marries mobile and credit card technology using custom hardware that plugs into an Iphone, Ipad or Android device, was recently reported to be processing 5 billion dollars in annual payments. However, their target markets have high credit card adoption and they face continued competition in that vertical.
Mpesa’s runaway success has seen many mobile operators including the parent company Vodafone try to replicate its success with nothing to write home about in comparison.
The next wave of innovation in mobile payments, I foresee being powered by NFC (Near Field Communication) – a contactless radio technology that can transmit data between two devices within close proximity.
Search giant Google have in their stable a service dubbed – Google Wallet, which are positioning to replace the credit card in both form and function by layering additional services onto mobile payments. I consider it odd therefore that they would have credit card issuers onboard with Mastercard and Citi already live and Visa, Discover and American Express slated for future inclusion onto their platform.
Africa has all the ingredients of a successful adoption of mobile payment innovation that can achieve true scale and profit. First, is the sheer number of mobile consumers whose demand for better mobile utility is remains unsatisfied, second is the wide gap in C2B payments on mobile, with the business oriented service attempts on Mpesa, Zap and other mobile money deployments in Africa barely scratching that itch; third is that there have been lessons learnt in mobile money deployments for the masses, lastly and perhaps most important is that we think different – and here I refer to the many minds that tirelessly think outside the box and innovate for the unique African mobile consumer.
According to the GSMA, as of November 2011, 45 of the world’s leading mobile operators had committed to support and implement SIM-based NFC solutions and services with commercial services live in France, Japan, South Korea, Tanzania, Turkey and the UK.
It’s still an open game, and my bet is on an African innovation taking the world by storm yet again.