Societe Generale to provide mobile money in Africa

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Obopay has teamed up with French bank Societe Generale to bring its mobile payment services to customers in Africa starting with a new service launching in Senegal.

The service offered through Societe Generale de Banques au Senegal is called ‘Yoban’tel’. It allows phone users to pay bills or receive money via text messages on their phones. The service is designed to help grease the flow of money for people who don’t have bank accounts and are currently forced to carry large amounts of cash. After launching in Senegal, Societe Generale plans to launch the service in more African nations – writes Dean Takahashi.

These kinds of services have taken off in places such as Kenya, where lots of commerce already happens through phones. The service is important for Societe Generale, since mobile payments are about as vital in some developing countries as automated teller machines are in the US If you don’t have the service, you lose the customers.

David Schwartz, head of product and corporate marketing at Obopay, said in an interview that the new service will be available to all people in Senegal with a mobile phone. The bank will allow people to sign up for the service through partners such as Credit Mutuel du Senegal, TIGO and CanalSat Horizons. The latter is a satellite TV service that is popular now because of the World Cup.

Through that service, customers can pay for TV service via a mobile phone rather than wait in a long line and pay with cash now. Users can also load or pick up cash at designated locations throughout Senegal. They can use the service to send money to anyone with a phone in the country, or pay a bill. ‘This lets banks capture customers they can’t get today,’ Schwartz said.

‘Right now, banking is so limited in Senegal that people can spend an entire day waiting in line to pay a utility bill,’ said Richard Hababou, managing director of Societe Generale Innovations Group. ‘Now customers can get Yoban’tel by Obopay through a prepaid account. To carry out a transaction, someone sends a short message service text message to transfer money. It works with all telecom carriers.’