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Western Union, MTN introduce cross-border mobile money transfer in 21 countries

Wireless carrier MTN Group and global payment services giant Western Union Co. have partnered to introduce international mobile remittance services in 21 countries across Africa and the Middle East.

The service will let MTN subscribers send and receive Western Union Money Transfer transactions using their MTN MobileMoney accounts and use the funds to pay bills, top-up airtime, send money domestically and internationally or withdraw cash at MobileMoney Agents or any participating ATM.

“The strategy behind the Western Union and MTN agreement is simple: to introduce international remittances as a value-added service to MTN mobile wallets, called MobileMoney accounts, allowing consumers to quickly and conveniently send and receive money transfers globally using just their mobile phones,” said Khalid Fellahi, head of mobile transaction services at Western Union, Englewood, CO. 

“Africa is currently a mobile money hotspot in the world, and is also a very robust remittance market,” he said. “These factors, along with the fact that MTN is a leading mobile operator in Africa, make this collaboration a very interesting one for the global remittance ecosystem.”

Mobile money
The service will first be introduced in Uganda, where MTN’s MobileMoney service already boasts more than 1 million registered users, making it one of the most successful mobile wallet deployments in the world.

According to the World Bank, Uganda receives nearly US$500 million in remittances every year, making up 3 percent of the country’s GDP.

MTN’s MobileMoney service in partnership with local banks is currently available in Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda, with pilots underway in several other markets. 

Inbound remittances are a great source of funds for mobile wallets, per Mr. Fellahi.

Once money transfers are routed to mobile wallets, the money can then be used to pay bills, top up air time, conduct domestic person-to-person money transfers and so on.

Introducing international money transfers to MTN’s MobileMoney accounts injects more funds into the ecosystem, leading to greater transactions and usage.

Mr. Fellahi said that for subscribers, it is really a matter of added convenience: providing them the options of sending and receiving funds using their mobile phones or going to a Western Union agent location.

The audience is global: people around the world who wish to send or receive money transfers to or from an MTN MobileMoney account using Western Union’s network, which includes 386,000 agent locations in 200 countries and territories worldwide.

While adoption of mobile money transfer services is spreading quickly, there is still plenty of room for growth.

“Mobile Money Transfer is still in its nascent stage,” Mr. Fallahi said. “We expect to see significant growth over the next several years, as mobile operators such as MTN, along with financial institutions and vendors, work together to make mobile money a reality across the globe.”

Final Take
Dan Butcher, associate editor, Mobile Commerce Daily