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DCB’s African dawn: How m-wallets and DCB are revolutionising payments


One of the biggest growth areas for carrier billing lies in Africa. By the end of 2018, a total of 43 out of 55 African countries (or 78%) will offer 4G services, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Over the last few years, African countries have been rolling out 4G mobile networks across the continent at break-neck speed. In the last 24 months, even minnows such as Djibouti, The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau have launched new fast 4G services.

The provision of 4G data speeds, in conjunction with recent smartphone usage trends – fuelled by falling device prices – is sure to further spur data revenues for mobile network operators across both the urban and rural parts of Africa.

But while these countries are the leaders in terms of 4G, the whole of the African continent offers a huge billing and content opportunity for telemedia companies and merchants. One such player tapping into this is Mobivate, a mobile billing and messaging company that specialises in Africa.

It has rolled out Mobipay, a mobile payment service that looks to use an m-wallet approach to carrier billing, allowing users to pay for things with their mobile, but not out of their airtime.

“The African opportunity is huge,” says Daniel Balfour, head of Mobipay. “We offer PSMS and DCB and with millions of subscribers in Ghana and Nigeria, there are huge opportunities for digital content providers to tap into this market.”

He continues: “If you look at Europe and North America and parts of Asia, smartphone penetration is at 100%, in some place more than 100%, but in Africa there is predominance of feature phones. To neglect these millions of features phones would be a mistake.”



To this end. Mobipay is tapping into how to do in-app billing on feature phones as well as smartphones to help users do everything from playing games, to streaming Netflix, buying through Amazon or paying their utility bills.

“In Ghana we have mobile money solution rolling out for digital goods and service and we can also do physical goods,” says Balfour. “Pay-outs are much better than on PSMS and traditional carrier billing and, as a result, we are seeing traditional merchants and new entrants looking to take this on. Ghana is a nice new viable market for them.”

The interesting thing, notes Balfour, is that by making sure that the consumer payment comes out of their wallet – which they top up with DCB – it doesn’t come off their airtime. This makes them much more likely to convert.

“It also allows us to roll out services much more quickly for merchants,” he says.

David Umoh, head of products and services at operator Tigo Tanzania agrees that new models are just what are needed across the continent to drive DCB use for the unbanked.

Tigo is second biggest carrier in Tanzania and is a leader in African digital lifestyle services. “DCB cuts across everything we do and we use it for basic VAS for customers right through to Google app stores and for access to other digital services. Carriers have a lot of power in Africa as they are the ones where people touch the internet. Adding a layer of paid-for services and a way to pay for them is a huge opportunity.”

“But it needs new business models,” he says. “One thing that DCB in Africa has brought about its that it has made airtime – or the mobile bill – like a secondary currency in many countries and we are looking at how to make this something useful to consumers.”



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