Giving Citizens the Ability to Conduct Banking Services via Mobile Phones
Easy access to financial services is a luxury for many citizens of African nations. Due to long distances between bank branches, large geographical areas, and the lack of access to cost effective, rapid and efficient transportation, generally less than 10 percent of Africans currently participate in formal banking. For those that do, they may often face limited opening hours, process inefficiencies and long queues (especially at month end) after having spent a great deal of time and money traveling to a bank branch. In some cases, citizens are forced to dedicate an entire day to conduct banking business, withdraw salaries and pay bills.
To address the situation, Kenya-based MobiKash Afrika is deploying a mobile commerce platform that is independent of mobile operators, commercial banks, other financial institutions and bill issuers. The company’s services, which represent a major breakthrough for Africa, will make it possible for many citizens to conduct banking activity for the first time. MobiKash hopes to eventually empower all people in Africa with a secure and independent mobile commerce system that is easy to use.
Sybase 365 mCommerce Platform Facilitates Integration with Multiple External Systems
To achieve its mission, MobiKash is working with Sybase 365 mCommerce technology to create a simplified process for opening and managing bank accounts via mobile phones and other access channels.
During the evaluation, MobiKash considered other technologies, but Sybase 365 was the best positioned partner in terms of providing the highest degree of mCommerce functionality and sector experience. MobiKash also liked the flexible pricing model that Sybase 365 offers and was impressed that Sybase 365 has numerous global deployments of mobile commerce solutions covering all sectors of the market.
Several other factors contributed to the MobiKash decision to partner with Sybase 365: Sybase 365 was already deploying similar solutions in other parts of Africa with architectures similar to what MobiKash needed to deploy. Sybase 365 has local African presence and demonstrated its understanding of how to integrate with various African financial institutions, mobile phone operators, financial switch vendors and mobile data aggregators. Furthermore, mCommerce technology does not require high-end mobile phones, so the service is accessible to users with limited handset technology, a common situation among African citizens.
Working Relationships with Other Technology Partners Play a Key Role in Project’s Success
The relationships that Sybase 365 has established with mobile operators and data aggregators throughout Africa was a particularly important aspect in helping MobiKash choose Sybase 365 and has helped their solution operate effectively. Sybase 365 processes bulk SMS traffic, however USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) traffic aggregation is handled by MobiKash in each country.
MobiKash’s production Mobiliser platform is hosted by Sybase 365 in a PCI-standard data center in Frankfurt, Germany where Sybase 365 has performed all of the configuration work to meet MobiKash’s product requirements. The overall solution integrates banking with back-office systems so that the MobiKash solution operates in a similar manner to a banking application. Complimenting the Sybase 365 mCommerce platform are sub-systems developed by MobiKash and other technology partners. All sub-system traffic from the switch and aggregation platform is channeled into the mCommerce platform.
The MobiKash service runs independently of financial, network and bill issuing institutions in contrast to most mobile commerce platforms, which are usually run by banks or network operators. Being independent, the service provides a financial portal to consumers performing varying financial functions via multiple delivery channels that links the consumers to their financial accounts and participating service providers.
New Banking Services Available to Citizens in Multiple Countries
MobiKash adopted a staged approach to satisfy regulation requirements that ensure consumer protection, information security, proper governance, and trustee management of funds. Sybase 365 supported MobiKash in the regulatory accreditation and compliance processes.
MobiKash is presently establishing follow-on country operations in East, West and Southern Africa as local joint venture initiatives. One of these countries is Zimbabwe for which MobiKash and Sybase 365 have jointly attracted funding from AECF / AGRA to assist in the service introduction and rural social impact. Likewise, a West African MobiKash project has been awarded donor funding for agent build-out and skills creation.
Work is underway to commence intercontinental remittances from North America, Europe and the Middle East to MobiKash operations in Africa. MobiKash is working with a number of remittance partners to achieve this goal. As well as linking MobiKash African country operations together as one virtual African territory, MobiKash has also formed a business alliance with Masary in Egypt, another Sybase 365 mCommerce project for the Middle East and North Africa region.
By providing an independent service to conduct banking with financial institutions, MobiKash is creating a new industry in Africa and taking banking to a new level by giving customers a financial portal to manage bank accounts and payments through an independent service provider.
Other mobile commerce firms have deployed financial services, but the services are delivered by multiple providers that operate in silos so that users on different networks cannot execute transactions with each other. Conversely, MobiKash customers benefit from the ability to manage their money using an independent front-end regardless of which financial institution and mobile phone network they use.
With MobiKash, customers can easily pay bills, send money, manage their accounts and transfer funds on a user-friendly mobile platform with connectivity to various financial institutions. This will facilitate banking for the citizens of Kenya and other countries where MobiKash is deploying. The immediate goal is to make it effortless for people to progress towards opening fully-integrated mobile wallets and bank accounts.
Providing African Citizens with New Financial Capabilities
MobiKash will soon add Java applications for higher-end mobile phones and access to the service via the Internet, ATMs, EPOS and POS terminals. By using the Internet MobiKash will provide a “money supermarket” Web site where users have access to many services through one portal. Coupling this with access to banking services, MobiKash is providing the citizens of Africa with the tools they need to pay bills and make investments as well as buying goods and services.
“This project represents a significant step forward in delivering the necessary integrated infrastructure required to ensure that African citizens without traditional banking access can execute financial transactions,” said Duncan Otieno, CEO of MobiKash Afrika. “Over the long term, we hope that the African continent will become an integrated single mobile commerce ecosystem using the common architecture and product set provided by MobiKash via the Sybase 365 mCommerce platform.”