‘Continent-Wide MoMo Interoperability Possible’

Participants at the event


Experts and industry players in Africa’s financial and telecommunications sectors have called on heads of state, heads of financial institutions, and regulators to commit to a payment architecture that is interoperable across all borders of the continent.

According to experts and industry leaders, a continent-wide system in which all African countries can purchase products and services and make payments through a mobile money interoperability infrastructure is possible; however, decision-makers must commit to making it a reality.

The policy proposals were presented during the Africa Prosperity Network’s (APN) Mobile Money Interoperability Symposium, which was themed “Scaling Up Interoperability — Using Mobile Money to Buy and Sell Across Africa.”


Expert Proposals

The experts primarily emphasized financial inclusion as a catalyst for development, emphasizing the significance of interoperability in driving economic progress across Africa. They highlighted mobile money’s potential to overcome financial service gaps and empower communities.

On the subject of payment systems, industry players discussed the essential components and strategies for creating an integrated payment system to boost intra-African trade.

The focus was on leveraging digital trade, regulatory support, and innovative technologies.

Panelists at the symposium also underscored the need for regulatory harmonisation and cooperation between countries to facilitate seamless transactions, emphasising the importance of building a unified regulatory framework that supports innovation while ensuring security and compliance.

Representatives from leading telecommunications firms discussed their preparedness, the technological developments required to support interoperability, and the challenges and opportunities in deploying cross-border mobile money solutions.

Concerning what has to be done in the short, medium, and long term to achieve interoperability across Africa, the experts and industry leaders urged sustained advocacy among key policy partners.

They proposed the finalisation of a legal framework and the constitution of a governance committee that would work with a technical working group, including a SAPA team, as well as the execution of a pilot mechanism with anchor bank, fintech and telco partners.

Vice-President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, in his keynote address, highlighted the need for central banks in Africa to put in more effort in making mobile money interoperability a reality on the continent.

Dr. Bawumia said this could replace the idea of a single currency which has been on the drawing board for decades due to the inability of several African countries to meet the convergence criteria.

“The idea of a common currency which came in 1963 has been overtaken by the digital payment age… that today you can think about mobile money as a common currency. If we make it interoperable, we don’t need to have the common currency before we get the benefits,” he stated.


Mobile Money Payments

Ahead of the experts’ discussions and deliberations, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, Executive Chairman and Founder of Africa Prosperity Network (APN), stated in his welcome address that the African continent has experienced a remarkable digital revolution in recent years, particularly in the financial sector.

According to Mr. Otchere-Darko, mobile money, a service that allows people to transfer money and make payments using their mobile phones, is now an important part of millions of Africans’ everyday lives, and statistics back up this claim.

“Africa represents close to 70% of global money transaction values. In 2021, 50% of adults in Sub-Saharan Africa made or received a digital payment, up from 34% in 2017. The average annual volume of transactions increased by 47% in 2018, while the average value increased by 39%”, Gabby Otchere-Darko said.


Success Stories

To this end, Mr Otchere-Darko pointed out that some countries on the continent such as Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Botswana, among others, have been able to introduce mobile money interoperability domestically and there should not be any reason why the same cannot be achieved on the entire continent.

“We in Ghana appreciate the value that interoperability has brought to both our social and economic lives since our government took that significant policy step a few years ago, and that experience is now shared in several countries across Africa. There is a market of 1.4 billion or so consumers out there in our 55 nation-states.

“Imagine what it will mean for a young Ghanaian tailor, whose clothes on Instagram can be bought by consumers in Zimbabwe using Zimbabwean dollars (not US dollars) from their Econet mobile wallet and this tailor in Tamale, receiving payment in cedis? The technology to make that happen is before us. What is required is the will to make it happen,” Mr Otchere-Darko said.

“Currently, numerous mobile operators and financial institutions operate in silos, creating an environment of limited interoperability that constrains the continent’s economic potential.

“Key stakeholders, including Mobile Network Operators (MTN, Orange, Telecel, Safaricom, Vodacom, and Airtel), Financial Institutions (Commercial banks, Development banks), Regulatory Bodies (Telecom Regulators, Central Banks, National Security Agencies), Trade Associations and Governments, hold pivotal roles in this ecosystem.

“Above all, we need the political will of African leaders and the courage and commitment of our central bank governors to make cross-border [payments a possibility],” the Executive Chairman of Africa Prosperity Network (APN) added.