Mobile money must go beyond sending money and receiving money to more advanced services such as making payments if Uganda is to attain a digitised economy, according to Mr Ali Monzer, MTN acting general manager mobile money services.
Mr Monzer said entrepreneurs must focus on accelerating development of diverse mobile money uses because it is the next big thing.
“We should go away from services like sending money. The potential is now in what we call advanced services to keep the money flowing into the system. A digitized economy can only be realised through mass adoption,” noting that focus must now be put on lifestyle payment services.
Mr Monzer was speaking during an event where three startups were awarded $6,000 (Shs21m) following the MTN Open API challenge. This seeks to create a multitude of uses of mobile money services.
An Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of rules and tools for building software applications and it specifies how software should interact.
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Traditionally, technological advances have been led by telecoms and a small number of innovators.
Fifteen months ago, MTN opened its mobile money platform to Ugandans to allow developers to build products that receive payments for goods and services, make payments to a list of specified recipients, enable transfer and reception of money across borders or enable mobile money payments off an e-commerce site.
But also, there was a realization that connecting 10 million registered mobile money users to the telecom’s platforms and merchants would take long.
More than 300 people are now testing their software and 100 live applications are said to be already generating traffic and making revenue from the open mobile money platform.
“If you have the right application, you can scale it up because we have mobile money in 20 countries. The Ericsson platform is across those countries. If you develop an application for Uganda, it automatically becomes available in those countries so the scale of what can potentially be achieved is bigger than a localised application,” Mr Wim Vanhelleputte, chief executive officer MTN, said.
However, MTN is now tasking innovators to turn their applications into sustainable businesses.
“Before the open platform, some payment methods required a lot of information which you would not have. Available systems of payment integrators would be down so vendors would not be able to sell. The solutions available required one to have a high tech background,” Ms Shamim Nakayiza, a developer of MTN Momo payment gateway said.