Mobile Money transactions flourishing in East Africa
Various studies have shown that East African region leads in adoption of mobile money technologies. Unlike five years ago, almost all water and energy utility companies in East African have an option of paying bills using mobile money from local network operators. Cross border mobile transactions are now part of the small and medium enterprises that have made the business secure and flourish in the regional marketplace. East Africa merchants have achieved huge growth over the past three years with mobile money transactions of more than US$5 billion worth of mobile payments and this figure is expected to grow to US$10 billion by next year in four of the five member states of East Africa Community; Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. Burundi is yet to have a robust mobile money sector. A lot of East Africa merchants are going into cross border commerce due to the opportunities of finding new markets, boosting their sales and consequently, expanding their businesses. For example, Uganda is known as the fashion and designers capital of East Africa where the best suits, watches, ladies outfits, shoes among others are found. That tag itself attracts thousand of cloth merchants into Kampala every month from Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.
Through cross border mobile money transfer, Kenyans selling products in Uganda or anywhere in East Africa can simply send money back in Nairobi and order for more products in case they ran out of stock. The same applies for Ugandans, Rwandans and Tanzanians operating outside their countries. The reasons behind the high growth rate for mobile money driven exports and imports within the three major economies of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda is the effective use of competitive pricing models amongst regional businesses and their uncanny ability to create products and services that are high in demand in the region a good example being Khanga textiles from Tanzania. You can rarely walk on the street of any major East African city and fail to spot a woman donning a kanga which is a colourful garment worn by women and occasionally by men throughout the region. East Africans main imports and exports within the regions were computers and accessories, electronics, Textiles, fashion, and beauty and fragrances, houseware, arts and crafts especially from popular Maasai community, and jewellery. The most important thing in East Africa’s cross border transactions is the ability to trust each other among the merchants in a region where there is mix of physical goods as well as services trading. Mobile money transfers across the border has enabled merchants to pay for everything from buying products to getting paid for their services. Mobile money transfer services have over 50 million active users in the East African region and supports payments in four different currencies.