Strong partnerships between banks and telecoms key to drive financial inclusion, says MTN chief

BANKS and local telecom operators can have a greater impact on financial inclusion by working together to rollout products capitalisaing on the popularity of mobile money platforms.

With mobile money’s popularity growing fast, Bart Hofker, the MTN Rwanda chief executive officer, said that partnership and close collaboration between the two sectors was likely to drive up formal financial inclusion.

At the moment, there are about 8.6 million registered financial services accounts and about 119 million mobile money transactions between June 2016 and June 2017. During the same period, a total of Rwf622 billion was transacted via mobile money platforms. All the three main telecoms, MTN, Airtel and Tigo, offer mobile money services. Hofker told The New Times that there is a major opportunity in the partnership between telecoms and banks with the telecom operators acting as a channel.

“Telecoms can be a channel for all the banks, we are stimulating it. It however probably needs a little more time...it also requires technical work for feasibility and banks need to gain confidence that we are not in their way. Banks should feel free to join us,” he said in an interview. MTN Rwanda and Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) early this year jointly launched a new banking product MoKash which enables clients save and borrow money via mobile money.

According to Hofker, the product is gaining popularity, signifying demand for financial inclusion in the country.

He said that the service currently boasts of over 550,000 subscribers and about Rwf313 million in savings. About Rwf1.2 billion worth of loans has been disbursed to subscribers since the launch of the service.

Experts say that mobile money as an agency of financial inclusion has not been well utilised, arguing that if only half of the over 8.5 million subscribers used such platforms the impact on economy would very significant.

MTN revenue grew by 6 per cent year-on-year in the first half of the year, driven by increasing consumption per customer and mobile money service.

The recent financial inclusion report by FinScope Survey said showed that financial inclusion can be stepped up by linking mobile money platforms to financial institutions. This experts said would create credit history for clients and foster financial inclusion.