Monday, June 29, 2009

Zain Launches Zap Mobile Money in Uganda, Plans International Transfers

Mobile operator Zain has officially launched its Zap mobile commerce service in Uganda. The firm's CEO Yesse Oenga said in a statement that the roll-out of the Zap service in Uganda will be phased. In the first phase launched 29 June, Zain subscribers will be able transfer money securely to friends and family across the country in addition to topping up airtime and paying for goods and services.
Meanwhile, Zain will soon introduce a money transfer service across East Africa in the wake of the introduction of international roaming services through its One Network offering.

The pan-African mobile phone company is in discussions with the central banks of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania about the possibility of transferring money across borders the same way voice is transferred, without any extra charges, according to Maurice Newa, Zain's chief commercial officer in Africa.

"The technology is not a problem because we have it," Newa said last week. "It is the regulatory issues that are preventing such a move and right now we are talking to the regulators of the finance sector about how we can transfer money across the borders," he said. Newa made the remarks when the company announced its trustee partnership for its ZAP service with Standard Chartered Bank Uganda.

Zain is due to launch ZAP, a mobile commerce service that will allow Ugandans to transfer money. It is already operational in Kenya and Tanzania.

Newa said that coupled with its One Network cross-border service, if approved, it will be able to offer an East Africa-wide mobile banking platform that will be the world's biggest cross-border mobile commerce service.

"With ZAP, Zain customers will soon be able to make cross-border payments and transfers between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda with no extra charge," Newa said. One Network allows travelling customers to move across geographic borders without roaming surcharges.

Yesse Oenga, the Zain Uganda managing director said the company has met all regulatory requirements, and that the Bank of Uganda has cleared them to use the full suite of mobile commerce services.

"That means that the ZAP service with Zain will not be limited to money transfer but will include mobile airtime transfer, mobile money transfer, mobile banking, mobile merchant payment and cross border money transfer," Oenga said.

The partnership will allow Zain customers to use their mobile phones to pay utility bills, pay for goods and services, receive money and send money to friends, family and business partners.

Other features include the ability to deposit and withdraw of money into and from bank accounts, check bank balances, keep track of payments and top up phone airtime.

Lamin Manjang, the chief executive officer Standard Chartered Bank Uganda said mobile commerce has the potential to transform banking in Africa and will help overcome many of the obstacles presented by providing banking services to remote and rural communities.

The ZAP service in Uganda has already been activated with over 1 million Zain customers possessing the service in their phone menus.

Mobile money transfer service emerged as the new battle front for telecom companies toward the end of last year when MTN announced it was set to introduce the service in its Uganda market and three markets in West Africa.

While the MTN service has not received a big user take-up -- as was the case in Kenya when Safaricom offered the service -- company officials have said the service has so far seen more than US$250,000 transferred electronically.

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