Was I a bit shocked that I enjoyed myself at Mobile Monday yesterday? Heck yes, because it was a Monday to begin with! So I wasn’t expecting for my thoughts to be provoked on perhaps one of the most hated days ever: Monday! I’m just joking, I love Mondays. It was however on a very hot subject. How befitting it was that Mobile Monday was all about Mobile Money this month, my very first one to attend since it was launched in May 2012, and it was not at all disappointing.
According to the Lusaka Chapter’s Facebook page, MoMo or Mobile Monday, is a global community of mobile industry visionaries, developers and influential people fostering cooperation and cross-border business development through virtual and live networking events to share ideas, best practices and trends from global markets.
Last night’s MoMo was interesting to say the least. An occasion different from any other BongoHive event that I’ve attended so far. The topic of discussion at the event was the advantages and possibility of mobile money interoperability among Zambian service providers.
Cutting to the chase and not wasting any time for our power-readers, the summary of the event was that the possibility of mobile money interoperability among Zambian service providers is still quite far-fetched. In fact, this was confirmed by the guest speaker of the evening Igancio Mas. Mas said that service providers are too comfortable with a small piece of the pie at the bottom of the S curve bordering customer value and customer numbers that there is just no market growth in the industry.
Ignacio Mas is an internationally renowned consultant with significant expertise in the design and application of technology-enabled models for financial inclusion. His other amazing accolades can be found here.
The main issue of discussion at MoMo was interoperability. Interoperability is basically to inter-operate. That is, the extent to which systems can work together or the ability thereof. Hence, how easy is it to fathom the interoperability of mobile money service providers in Zambia let alone Africa? It’s not a question of when but rather a question of how?
The answer for Zambia apparently lies in the closure of a gap which exists between the two regulators, Bank of Zambia (BOZ) and Zambia information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA).
A classic scenario of innovation ahead of regulation, Zambia does not have an adequate system in place to address the vacuum of which regulator is between telecommunication companies assuming the role of banks and banks. As a result, we find banking laws meddling with the attainment of real customer value from mobile money. For instance, Customer Due Diligence (CDD) procedures mirrors Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures when a company wishes to open a corporate mobile money account, according to Airtel Money Zambia Director. Reason being that the Central Bank needs to ensure that banks adhere to anti-money laundering laws. And because of the vacuum, mobile money SPs get shoved in there.
Needless to say where the biggest obstacle lies, at the end of the day, consumers are not happy campers in the mobile money sector. Who is responsible for pushing for the gap to close or even building a bridge across it?
The people definitely missing from the panel which comprised heads of mobile money at Airtel Zambia, MTN Zambia and Zoona, were the regulators (BOZ or ZICTA) and civil society (activists or lobbyists) in order to answer certain questions like who.
Anyway, on the more fun side of techy things, the issue of APIs (Application Programming Interface) was brought up by a BongoHive member. This was strongly seconded by another member of the audience.
The issue is that developers currently have to customise any app they wish to create for a company according to the company’s standards. There ain’t no tweaking here and there. No sir, you gotta start from scratch every time!
In the end, July MoMo was a hit in my books because it scored points for stimulating a very engaging discussion. The meeting was sponsored by Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Zambia, Protea Hotels Zambia and BongoHive. It was held at Protea Hotel Arcades and started at 18:00. The next one is scheduled to be held in the next two months.
Image Credit: Mobile Money Lusaka