Tag Archives: mobile financial services

Mobile Financial Services: Uganda and back

Recently, I had the opportunity and the pleasure to work with a large NGO seeking to launch mobile financial services for poor, unbanked small holder farmers. This NGO has a big mission: to create sustainable development in post-conflict areas. In Uganda, I worked out of the Kampala office, but focused the mobile financial services work on the Northern and Western Acholi and Karamoja regions. Incidentally, for those of you familiar with the Kony’s LRA child army devastation, much of this conflict occurred in the Acholi region of Uganda.

As I worked with this NGO’s amazing team to develop their Go-to-Market strategy, I felt so fortunate to have the opportunity to meet such incredible, smart, and interesting people and to hopefully have a positive impact in their overall mission. I was also reminded how far I was from home as I saw these 4×4 trucks parked at the client’s offices.

There is nothing quite like a sign for AK47’s on four-by-four trucks to remind someone she is far away from home, where my previous work residence a few years ago was the lovely PayPal building in San Jose.

While all of my work involves mobile payments or mobile financial services, the work itself is vastly different as I work with clients like the one in Uganda seeking to build sustainable development and increase the incomes of the poor versus the large banks or technology companies in the U.S. I often think of my business as completely bifurcated, and yet, I have to believe there is a common thread in what I do.

This question has been my inspiration for my next mobile payments event in San Francisco to explore what the connections are between seemingly disparate initiatives around the world and what is occurring here in the U.S. As I prepare for this event, I will be researching the commonalities of various initiatives worldwide. At our panel discussion, we will seek the advice of experts from around the world to get their views on linkages. Come join us as we begin to uncover what links mobile payments initiatives from Post-Kony conflict Uganda to Silicon Valley on July 23 at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.  For more information on the upcoming event, you can find it here.

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Tech@State – Mobile Money Public and Private Partnerships

I recently had the honor to present at The State Department’s Tech@State event for Mobile Money on the intersection of Mobile Money with Food Security. It was great to see the level of interest and momentum that the government has behind this, recognizing the mobile money will be the key to financial inclusion world-wide. I was joined by a number of other mobile money experts. The recap can be found here.
The Food Security/Mobile Money presentation can be accessed on slideshare. Two critical videos to watch to gain a better understanding of the use of mobile money for food security are:
Mobile Money Vouchers by Mobile Transactions
Mobile Micro-Insurance by Syngenta Foundation

At the end of the event, I joined my colleagues to discuss the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead and reiterated that I hope this is just the beginning of a dialog between private-public sectors to help advance this industry. The video can be found here.
Stay tuned on a number of items…
1. Working on the intersections of mobile money and mHealth for the mHealth Alliance (United Nations Foundation) and The World Economic Forum
2. Upcoming event on September 13, 2010 in San Francisco as a Bay Area recap of Tech@State and “Around the World in 80 Minutes” to demonstrate some mobile payments systems from around the globe. Registration for this event will be announced on my LinkedIn Group: Mobile Payments Series – mPay Connect

Perspectives on mobile payments from Silicon Valley to South Asia…

I recently returned to Silicon Valley after some client work I did in South Asia.  In preparation for a recent presentation with the Harvard Business School Club of NYC, I was reflecting on my experiences from this trip and within mobile payments for the past 5 years.

Here are some of thoughts. 

1. Just as mobile leapfrogged fixed line in emerging markets… Just as clean energy will leapfrog the traditional grid fossil fuels in places lacking in infrastructure… So too will mobile payments leapfrog traditional banking in emerging markets. It’s happening and will continue to occur.

It occurs to me that there’s an interesting analogy with mobile payments and the path computers took from mainframe to distributed computing.  As industries and technologies advance, we are going “off grid” in the way we accomplish things.  So, too, is the concept behind mobile payments/branchless banking away from the core banking centers to distributed agents/mobile phones in conducting transactions.

2. We need to stop shoving technology into a market that doesn’t have a need, no matter how cool the technology is. Think customer need FIRST, NOT how do we use this cool technology?

I used to work with a team thinking of new ways consumers may want to use mobile payments.  I now know we were heading in the wrong direction.  If there’s no significant pain point, there’s no adoption potential.
3. How to begin assessing a market? Look where the money flows occur.

Understand segments, needs, and the flow of cash to begin to understand how to address a market.
4. Cash is where it’s at. Cards work perfectly well. Spend time on addressing cash because of the high value proposition associated with digitization of money.

Unless there is a SIGNIFICANT value proposition in mobilizing cards, it’s not worth the focus.  Go where there’s friction… cash is it.
5. Developing markets are heavily cash-dependent and have a LOT of people. Focus there.

Google “World Economic Pyramid” if you’ve never seen it.  The overwhelming majority of these people have no access to bank accounts.

6. Developed world has “developing markets” in its back yard. Target cash-dependent segments and services if you target anything.

The US has 70-100 million unbanked and underbanked people.  A portion of them are migrant workers who display similar characteristics to their families back home.  They may have different reasons why they’re unbanked, however.
7. Mobile payments are real and the only way to know this is to go to the markets and experience mobile payments first hand (or at least work with someone who has).

8. Invest in next gen. What happens once mobile payments systems are in place?

Mobile payments is the infrastructure needed as a base for all other industries.  By digitizing money, what new industries are needed and possible?

9. There’s still a LOT of room for innovation. Just because Safaricom hit a home run doesn’t mean we should assume that model is the best one for other markets.

There are many variables at play in determining the right path, and there are new value  proposition that meet unmet needs that have yet to be uncovered.
10. It’s important to understand timing is everything. Just because something didn’t work 3 years ago, doesn’t mean it won’t work now.

If real estate is about Location, Location, Location… New ventures are about Timing, Timing, Timing!



-Menekse, mPay Connect Consulting