Mobile Money in Liberia
Mobile Money is a term that refers to mobile financial services, mobile payment, mobile banking, mobile money transfer and mobile wallet – all of which generally refer to payment services operated under financial regulation and performed from or via a mobile device.
The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) operators in Liberia, particularly LonestarCell MTN http://www.lonestarcell.com/have begun offering this service, which is quite timely and has its advantages in a country where the economy is growing. At the same time, like the M-Kesh of Mozambique, the uptake of mobile money services in Liberia has been slow to start.
One way to start branding and customizing these services in Liberia would be for the GSM operators or Liberia Telecommunications Authority http://lta.gov.lr/ to come up with a unique nomenclature for this service instead of Mobile Money which is the generic name that refers to the technology.
Recently in Nigeria, GlobaCom and UBA has signed an MOU with the Government to launch it’s Mobile Money service which though not yet functional but have named U-Mo. See http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/glo-uba-sign-mou-on-mobile-money-service/97220/
In other countries in Africa, such as Kenya, the M-Pesa mobile money service is blooming and has helped bridge the urban-to-rural gap in banking and money transferring services. When fully adopted in Liberia, I believe these services will help boost the economy. For example, institutions like the government can make salary payments using Mobile Money for county officials thereby avoiding transporting huge amount of dollars from county to county for the sole purpose of salary disbursement.
Why Mobile Money?
Many Liberians have to travel far from home to find work and need to be able to send money back to their families, particularly in far-flung counties. Existing money transfer options are extremely expensive and many people cannot afford it.
Traditionally in Liberia, money has been transferred in a risky unregulated manner via long expensive trips carrying cash in an unpredictable environment. Technology in the banking sectors has begun to close this gap, and this is where Mobile Money comes in – allowing users to make frequent transfers without having to personally access a bank.
Mobile Money can lower the cost of remittances as it removes the need for physical points of presence and ensures a timely and secure method of transaction. This technology has been a great success with a lot of benefits to individuals, societies and the Governments. Can you link to a site where there is evidence/accounts of the benefits?
However, there are a few aspects that the LTA (Liberia Telecommunication Authority) as a regulator of GSM operators needs to address relating to Mobile Money Transfer:
1. Should the regulator allow a non-banking institution, such as all the GSM companies in Liberia, to get into the banking domain by accepting deposits and doing most of the functions of a bank without applying the same level of regulations on it as with banks?
2. How will the regulators and financial institutions bring interoperability in mobile banking?
3. How do the unbanked customers of mobile banking build their credit history?
In the case of Liberia, we are in our early stages of Mobile Money’s growth and we need to carry out a lot more awareness and publicity of the service in order to have it widely spread and adopted as soon as possible.
For those who are interested, I will outline what you need to do to sign up for Mobile Money. Since it is only LoneStar Cell MTN whose offering the service currently, I will outline the user procedure related to Lonestar:
To register for Mobile Money you need to:
•Fill out an application form
•Provide valid identification card (Passport, Driver License, Voter ID)
To complete Registration:
•Dial *156# and the call/ok button
•A welcome message is received, Welcome to Mobile Money, please select, Please select ID type
•Others (School, Church, Work etc.)
•Enter ID number ex. 1214
•Select Pin code ex. 12345
•Repeat Pin code ex. 12345
To download the entire Mobile Money User guide for Lonestar Cell MTN, click here