PNG Mobile Money Players Learn from Kenya’s M-Banking Success

June 21, 2010

Two of PFIP’s partners from Papua New Guinea, Nationwide Microbank and DataNets, Ltd., were given an opportunity to attend the Mobile Money Transfer Africa Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya from the 4th to the 7th of May.

Representatives of the both institutions, whose attendance at the conference was supported by PFIP, had the chance to meet with the leading mobile money transfer operators in the world, including mobile network operators, banks and other providers.

Mobile Money Transfer Africa is the leading mobile money event on the African continent and it brings together experts and showcases successful mobile money operators from Africa’s pioneering operators and financial institutions.

Africa—and Kenya in particular—has been the centre for innovation in using mobile phones and other wireless technology to provide financial services. Kenya was the first country in the world to offer mobile phone banking through M-Pesa services in 2007. Within its first year, it surpassed 2 million subscribers and by January this year, 9 million people representing 23% of the population in Kenya were using M-Pesa.

“Attending the conference gave us the potential to re-prioritise our delivery schedules in Papua New Guinea based on what was potentially more successful for mobile money,” said DataNet’s Sundar Ramamurthy, who found the Mobile Money Transfer Africa conference very informative and practical.

In April last year, DataNets launched a pre-cursor to mobile payments in PNG whereby users can purchase pre-paid electricity. Mr. Ramamurthy said he shared this experience with other participants at the conference and this was well received.

Nationwide Microbank’s Ravindra Ranjith also found the workshop very interesting.

“Now we understand that m-banking needs a lot of infrastructure, not just software and hardware, but also agents and trainers etc. We think that it will take a little longer than what we had expected and we are now looking at EFTPOS to be used for branchless banking,” said Mr Ranjith.

PFIP’s Regional Advisor Tillman Bruett accompanied both the representatives on visits to Safaricom’s M-Pesaoperation as well as a large Microfinance Institution, Jamii Bora, which is using new biometric point of sale devices to serve very low income and vulnerable clients in Nairobi’s slums.

“A core part of PFIP’s mandate is to promote knowledge sharing. Enabling partners to share ideas with other companies around the world engaged in this cutting edge technology is crucial to helping Papua New Guinea and other Pacific nations build their own branchless banking solutions and reach the millions of unbanked households,” said Mr. Bruett.

Last year, PFIP in partnership with the International Finance Corporation published a report “Building a Mobile Money Distribution Network in Papua New Guinea,” which highlights how a mobile money system might develop in PNG, what existing networks it might use for “cash in” and “cash out” services, and how mobile money might help individuals, companies and government alike to lower cost and increase security linked to the movement of money.