Two of Africa’s largest mobile operators and mobile money providers, Orange Group and MTN Group, have announced they will use open source financial services technology that was sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The two companies call their joint venture Mowali (mobile wallet interoperability), to enable interoperable payments across the continent. Mowali makes it possible to send money between mobile money accounts issued by any mobile money provider, in real time and at low cost. It gets off to a strong start with more than 100 million mobile money accounts between the two providers in 22 of sub-Saharan Africa’s 46 markets. It sees the potential to reach the 338 million existing mobile money accounts in the continent.
It uses Mojaloop, an open sources payment platform that the Gates Foundation launched at the SWIFT Sibos conference in Toronto last year.
“Interoperability of digital payments has been the toughest hurdle for the financial services industry to overcome in support of financial inclusion, said Kosta Peric, deputy director of financial services for the poor at the Gates Foundation. “This is a signal that a new wave of innovation, which can help alleviate poverty and drive economic opportunity, is coming.”
At the launch during Sibos last year Peric said that in Kenya it is estimated that M-Pesa helped 194,000 households move out of extreme poverty. Mowali can extend that mobile money reach to more people.
“Systems like M-Pesa are great, but most are a closed loop,” said Peric.
Mowali is a digital payment infrastructure that connects financial service providers and customers. It functions as an industry utility, open to any mobile money provider in Africa, including banks, money transfer operators and other financial service providers.