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MoPay, MobiKash Afrika tap Sybase 365 for mobile commerce

December 3, 2009

Shaun Campbell is the director of business development, mobile commerce, sub-Saharan Africa at Sybase

Shaun Campbell is the director of business development, mobile commerce, sub-Saharan Africa at Sybase

Due to a high volume of underserviced and unbanked consumers, mobile commerce is spreading like wildfire across Africa.

MoPay, an independent mobile services provider for the banking, telecoms and technology industries, and MobiKash Afrika, an independent Kenyan mobile commerce services provider, have partnered with Sybase 365, which specializes in mobile messaging and mobile commerce.

“The two projects are fundamentally the same—they are both independent mobile commerce projects that are not run by operators or banks,” said Shaun Campbell, Nyrobi, Kenya-based director of business development, mobile commerce, sub-Saharan Africa at Sybase. “The products are different at the moment, but will become pretty much the same product over time.

“What you have is a patchwork quilt of interconnected products, and we’re working to join all of these projects together so you can move money between African countries, and in and out of Africa as well,” he said. “The products are pretty much standard, so we’re filling in the jigsaw puzzle with the missing countries.

“We need the operators to carry the traffic, but as for the messaging, we have an aggregator business that allows us to connect every subscriber on every network to our mobile commerce service.”

The current MoPay International Limited supplier relationship framework includes members of the banking, telecoms, hardware, software and service-supplier communities.

MoPay is independently held, active in projects in many countries worldwide and increasingly acts as a technology distribution platform, along with its sister media company OmniMo International Limited.

MobiKash is an independent mobile commerce and payment ecosystem sponsored by Mobicom Africa Limited, a holding company headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.

MobiKash Kenya is backed by a consortium of Kenyan financial and business professionals.

MobiKash Afrika Limited was incorporated in 2008 as a vehicle to commercialize the MobiKash concept in the African continent.

MobiKash is currently deploying the Sybase 365 platform in Eastern and Southern Africa, Kenya being the pilot country.

Sybase 365, a subsidiary of Sybase Inc., enables mobile information services for carriers, financial institutions and enterprises.

The company provides its customers with SMS, MMS and GRX interoperability, mobile commerce platforms, text messaging, mobile marketing and content delivery services.

Sybase 365 processes more than 1 billion messages per day, reaching 800 carriers and 3.4 billion subscribers worldwide.

MoPay is working with Sybase 365 to enable diverse communities in South Africa to access mobile commerce services.

This partnership will improve access to financial services for the underserviced and unbanked communities of South Africa, individuals that would ordinarily struggle to connect with traditional banking and commerce mechanisms due to geographical or sociological barriers.

Aimed primarily at lower to middle social groupings that are dependent on services provided in municipalities, it will also facilitate enhanced efficiency of payment collection for government bodies, utilities providers and educational organizations.

Sybase 365 is managing all of the messaging interconnection for the service using the dedicated SMS short code 31636 that functions across all South African carrier networks.

Sybase 365 also provides the mobile payments platform, to process all financial transactions between the customer and the government and corporate entities.

The initial service provides real-time electricity pre-pay meter recharge for Eskom, the South African electricity public utility, and various municipalities using the MoPay mobile wallet running on a network independent platform.

The service is designed to enable lower income consumers to easily manage their electricity payments by way of micropayments and help municipalities and public utilities improve payment efficiencies

A key element of the service is to facilitate the distribution of Free Basic Electricity tokens—tokens distributed by the government to low-income households—sent by SMS to registered meter owners, thus improving the accessibility of this vital state benefit to poorer households.

In the future, MoPay intends to add a variety of innovative social payment and disbursement schemes to the portfolio, with a significant focus on assisting the government of South Africa and socially targeted corporations to disburse and collect funds.

Although a commercial trading entity, MoPay is a unique organization that focuses on the social needs of communities in an inclusive manner.

In addition to providing this payment mechanism, MoPay also facilitates other services vital to thriving villages and communities, such as free communications, free SMS between schools and parents and free content for schools and students.

For example, MoPay provides the supply of 30 minutes free and uncapped Internet time at Vlocity Hotspots all over South Africa to its users.

“The MoPay announcement is all about social services, dispersing and collecting funds from the government and helping underserved areas, all centered around the mobile wallet and linking cards to mobile phones and other services,” Mr. Campbell said.

MobiKash Afrika
MobiKash Afrika is partnering with Sybase 365 to deliver the first intra-region, mobile network and bank agnostic, mobile commerce solution for East and Southern Africa.

The companies will deliver mobile commerce services to increase the current level of financial inclusion of the unbanked and semi-banked via a simplified registration process for opening mobile wallets, as well as rapid bank account opening processes.

An individual’s accessibility to financial institutions—whether banks, micro-finance institutions (MFIs) or savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs)—is increased while offering tailored financial products beyond the now mainstream person-to-person mobile money transfer services found in Africa.

The mobile commerce services are designed for major enterprises, small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), cooperatives, insurance, medical and pension schemes, schools, disbursement channels, government agencies and international remittance channels.

The initial deployment is being piloted this year in Kenya with a combination of banks, MFIs and bill issuers using USSD as the mobile communication channel.

In parallel, the MobiKash business model is being established in various other Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) territories where several project contracts have already been signed and deployment work has commenced.

“MobiKash is a gateway or a portal into a whole range of financial services using the mobile channel,” Mr. Campbell said. “The significance is targeting the unbanked and the semi-banked populations and encouraging them to use a mobile wallet, but also linking to a small bank account via a customer registration process.

“The challenge is getting consumers to put money in electronic accounts,and tie them together in a financial portal so they can buy goods and services, pay taxes, receive welfare checks or salary, send remittances between countries, pretty much anything you can do with a normal bank,” he said.

“However, these people don’t like banks, they don’t trust them, so this is meant to be a micro-account, a stepping stone from a mobile wallet to a micro-account to a full bank account.”

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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