The growth of the mobile industry in Africa has been nothing short of amazing, with the mobile phone becoming a defacto part of day to day life across all levels of society and innovation happening rapidly to increase its utility. One of the pain points that individuals and corporations are trying to address is that of taking services closer to the consumer and with that comes the issue of payment for services.
Mpesa, which I consider an outlier service in respect to its runaway success in person to person mobile money transfer, is trying to add value to its service offering by going for the business end of things. This has seen larger utility companies leverage this to increase consumer satisfaction and improve on collection of revenue. In Kenya, the Mpesa service commands a 90+% share of the market, which doesn’t lend itself well to the replication that mobile network operators are trying to do across the world as the dynamics vary greatly.While it’s a given that the parent mobile network operator – Safaricom and intellectual property owner Vodafone should leverage the service in the context of a walled garden to gain competitive advantage and lock in the fleeting mobile consumer, I can’t help but imagine a business environment where Mpesa was its own corporate entity and here is why.
In a walled garden environment innovation may be stifled resulting in slower rollout of “killer” implementations. As an independent company Mpesa’s sole focus would be mobile money and it service permutations, which would hopefully see it look at all possible options to increase service use. An example of how this could be achieved is x.com a community created by Ebay – an ecommerce giant and PayPal – a leading secure payments service provider. This community provides tools that allow for unbridled innovation around the core services of these two companies with amazing results.
An independent setup would also see Mpesa license its technology to any mobile network operator seeking to add value to its consumer base. Last time I checked, revenue generation is the aim of going into business. Imagine the impact on the bottom line for the owners of the platform with a user base of 100 million across Africa versus its current deployments in Kenya, Tanzania, Afghanistan and South Africa where Vodafone have a presence.
Though there are other elements of service delivery and decision making that would be carried out more efficiently in a focused outfit; the two points for are king in my books. The greater opportunity lies in Africa, and that space I believe is wide open.