TNF Event: Mobile and how Africa is leading the mobile payment charge

MEST, Friday October 25th 2013

Last Friday The Next Frontier: Africa Event Series continued at Meltwater’s HQ in downtown San Francisco. The topic was a popular one as the room filled up with people eager to find out more about mobile and mobile money in Africa.

Neal Hansch, the Managing Director of the MEST Incubator, kicked off the event with an insightful presentation setting the scene for mobile on the continent.

TNF Mobile Payments Intro

Today, Africa hosts 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies and is home to the second biggest mobile market in the world. With rapid urbanization and an ever growing middle-class, now estimated at over 300 million consumers, there is a large and rising demand for new technology products and services.

As with many emerging markets, African nations leap frogged the fixed land-line and PC generations and as of this summer, there were 850+ million mobile subscribers across the continent, with this number expected to reach 1.25 billion by 2018. Of this massive user base, 115 million are 3G subscriptions and this figure is forecasted to reach 210 million by 2015.  Nigeria alone has gone from a nation of just 30,000 cell subscriptions in 2000 to more than 140 million today, or roughly 87 percent penetration.

Africa also benefits from a youthful population, with 50% of Africans under the age of 20. These tech savvy emerging consumers are online, mobile and ready to transact. What is really revealing is that African consumers prefer using their phones over any other method of doing business. Some 60% of subscribers claim to have bought at least one product online via mobile phone. It is reported that there is a 20%+ increase in African use of mobile phones for purchasing – higher than any other region in the world.

Examples of Africa leading the world in the adoption of next generation mobile services have already emerged. For example, M-PESA, a Kenyan service that allows money to be sent and received using basic mobile phones, has now been adopted by 70% of the adult population and is a conduit for 25% of that country’s GNP.

Next up the panel kicked off, it included Arjuna Costa an investment Partner at Omidyar Network, Maxwell Donkor, Co-Founder and CEO of mPawa, Gwen Floyd, Founder of Soko, Joshua Stern, CEO of Telerivet. It was moderated by Rebecca Grant, Writer, VentureBeat.

The diverse backgrounds of the panelist made for an interesting discussion, we had a Ghanian company who are solving recruitment problems in Africa with mobiles through SMS (mPawa), an investor in this space (Omidyar), a Kenyan marketplace that uses mobile money (Soko) and an SMS based communications company with offices in Tanzania.

After the panel, the room buzzed with introductions and conversations as business cards were exchanged left right and center!

We will be announcing the next event date and topic soon, if there are any suggestions please leave them in the comments box here.

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