Mobile payments herald cashless society

Posted: October 20, 2010 in Mobile, Future
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

coin“Mobile airtime is the Euro of the African Union” was just one of the jaw-dropping pronouncements from Simon Cavill at last week’s ForumOxford future tech conference.

The founder of mobile payment company Mi-Pay said 20 per cent of Kenya’s gross domestic product was now moving through mobile money, with a resulting 15 per cent drop in cash in circulation in the country.

The transactions amounted to 150m Euros per day and the World Bank had estimated mobile finance added 2-3 percent to the country’s GDP figures, he said.

The story of M-Pesa, run by telecom company Safaricom and part-owned by Vodafone is well known;  it is the biggest of more than 70 live mobile money schemes that have sprung up in Africa with another 80-plus in the pipeline.

Cavill’s company launched its international airtime transfer service back in August, allowing organisations to top-up pre-paid mobiles of individuals in other countries.

He told of a visit he had made to Nairobi with £500 of airtime on his mobile which he used to pay for his cab from the airport and to pay for his hotel – he hadn’t needed real money.

Airtime was being used for gifts and marketing rewards, and in Uganda it was possible to walk into a shop and redeem airtime for real money.

Showing a slide with a $50bn Zimbabwean note, Cavill said regional networks for airtime transfer that were being talked about in East and West Africa would help to force compliance and stabilize currencies.

On the question of money laundering he said: “There’s the real world and what the banking industry would like. Eighty per cent of money transfers are illegal.”

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