Telcos on the spot over capacity to secure mobile money transactions

Monday July 27 2020

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Customers stand near MTN agents for mobile mobile money transactions. The exponential growth in mobile money transactions is raising questions around the capacity of Mobile Network Operators to ensure safety. Photo | Cyril Ndegeya  

MOSES K. GAHIGI
By MOSES K. GAHIGI
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The exponential growth in mobile money transactions is raising questions about the capacity of mobile network operators to secure their systems.

When the country went into the first lockdown in March, as part of efforts to control the spread of Covid19, the government in collaboration with MNO’s, waived charges on mobile financial transactions, which led to a sharp rise in volumes transacted.

Bent on minimising cash transactions as much as possible to reduce spreading of the virus, a host of other services for instance taxi moto transport fares, bus fares among others are paid using mobile money.

The volumes of digital merchant payments at supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, among others using points of sale and mobile money to pay bills has also grown exponentially, as many services providers obtain mobile money numbers that don’t attract extra charges by the customer.

But as billions of money start going through these systems with-in a short time, customers have started raising questions around safety, regulation and how ready operators and banks are to deepen interoperability to smoothen the service.

A customer, Patrick Dusabe recently took to twitter saying he loaded money on his card using mobile money platform, but the money was not reflected on his account despite the transaction indicated that the money was transferred successfully.

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The sudden growth in mobile money volumes has created a situation that the long queues that used to be at banks have shifted to MNO service centres like MTN and Airtel.

The queues are made up of agents who go to have their accounts refilled and other issues addressed, and customers who go to have their transactional glitches resolved.

The other question that customers are raising is how MNO’s are evolving and growing into the responsibility of playing the ‘retail banking’ services to satisfy customers.

“From the look of things, the retail banking services that were rendered by banks are in a way being performed by telecom companies, ordinarily banks, for instance, give bank statements to customers and this is not happening with telecom companies, how are they growing into this new role” said Gonzaga Muganwa, an MTN customer.

When asked if telecom companies are in a way threatening banks at this time, Maurice Toroitich, managing director of BPR Atlas mara, said it hasn’t come to that.

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