Millicom debuts Rwanda and Tanzania mobile currency conversion
Luxembourg telecoms company Millicom has launched an African cross-border mobile payments service in Rwanda and Tanzania, which it claims is the first to automatically include currency conversion.
Using mobile phones, Tigo Cash users in Rwanda and Tigo Pesa customers in Tanzania will be able to send each other funds in their respective currencies without having to travel or visit a bank or money agent. Customers can also use the service for airtime top up, payments for water, electricity, TV, transport, cash withdrawals at any Tigo agent and transfers to other mobile money users.
Other companies such as Earthport already offer FX as part of their cross-border payments service – however this is offered depending on the customer’s requirements – i.e. users need to opt for it.
“This innovation means the benefits of mobile money can be extended to cross-border trade, allowing businesses and families to transfer money quickly and securely in East Africa,” said Hans-Holger Albrecht, president and chief executive at Millicom.
In Tanzania, Millicom’s Tigo service has 6 million customers, of which 2.7 million use mobile financial services. In Rwanda, the company has 1.9 million customers, of which 720,000 use mobile money. Founded in 1990, Millicom operates in other countries including Ghana, DR Congo, Chad, Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Paraguay, and says it has 6.3 mobile financial services customers in total.
Africa has received a lot of attention from mobile money companies in recent years. In August, French telco Orange launched a set of mobile payment services in Botswana and other countries in Africa and the Middle East, which it said would ease access to funds around the clock and bring new point of sale, online and ATM transaction options to customers. Meanwhile, the same month Western Union launched a mobile money service in Nigeria, which it says will help boost financial inclusion and provide new methods of money transfer for people sending and receiving money to Africa.
The following month, Standard Chartered released a mobile wallet service targeted at corporate clients in Kenya. The service was developed in partnership with Safaricom, which operates the mobile money transfer service M-Pesa. The bank stated that the deal was intended as the start of a major drive to open up financial inclusion in emerging markets.