During a one-on-one interview on Peace Fm’s Kokrooko on August 25th, 2020 between 54:56 to 55:06 minutes into the interview, the Vice President, Mahamadu Bawumia, made some claims about mobile money interoperability in Ghana and Africa as a whole.
The Vice president stated emphatically that,
“But the other part of it is that you have made the bank account and the mobile money wallet interoperable. So you can move money between the bank account and the mobile money wallet and vice versa and you can also do the same with the E-Zwich account. So triangular interoperability is what we have done. And Kwame this is the first country in Africa to do so. There is no other country in Africa that has been able to deliver mobile money interoperability.”
During the interview, viewers and listeners contested the statement citing Kenya as a country that had also adopted mobile money interoperability.
A video of the interview has been uploaded on Youtube.
We look at the two claims made by Bawaumia: first, “there is no other country in Africa that has been able to deliver mobile money interoperability” and second, that Ghana is the only country in Africa to implement interoperability between bank account and mobile money wallets.
What is mobile money operability?
This is a service that allows direct and seamless transfer of money from one mobile money wallet to another across networks.
Over time, this has grown to include integration in broader payment infrastructures, connecting a variety of financial services providers.
In this regard, there is a move from restricted transactions between just mobile money providers (MMPs) and one that offers the added opportunity for transfers or transactions between two accounts, like MMPs and a bank.
According to the report published by GSMA,
“Of the 95 markets where mobile money services are live, 48 have interoperability with either a bank or MMPs…On average, mobile money providers with bank integrations are connected to 13 banks.”
Claim 1: No country in Africa has been able to deliver mobile money interoperability.
Verdict: Ghana is not the only country to adopt and deliver on money interoperability.
Dubawa ran an online check for African countries who have functioning mobile money interoperability and found that many African countries, for instance, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and others have adopted and implemented the mobile money interoperability.
Quartz Africa in 2018 reported Tanzania to be the leading country in delivering interoperability. However, this level of operability is limited to Mobile money providers.
“Indeed, there’s precedent in Tanzania, the first African country to adopt interoperability, where there has been increased transactions among users. It’s a measure that’s also been adopted in Kenya and Ghana,” the report reads.
On June 4th, 2014, The East African also published a report on Tanzania being the first African country to implement the interoperability system.
Further search also led to GSM Association, an organisation that represents the interest of mobile network operators worldwide.
GSMA released a report titled “Tracking the journey towards mobile money interoperability Emerging evidence from six markets: Tanzania, Pakistan, Madagascar, Ghana, Jordan and Uganda” in June 2020.
The report was based on a study using a mixed-method analysis which included 32 key informant interviews, both remote and in-country, as well as desk research and field interviews conducted between December 2019 and February 2020.
It provides detailed insight into the state of mobile money operability in the selected countries and some limited information on others. See below.
Claim 2: “There is no interoperability between bank account and the mobile money wallet anywhere in Africa…”
Verdict: Other countries, Tanzania for instance, have mobile money wallet to bank account interoperability which has been and is currently in use.
Dr Bawumia in responding to the host’s comment that other countries, including Kenya, have implemented interoperability said Ghana is the only African country to implement interoperability with banks inclusive (1:38:30 to 1:39:48).
This claim is false. Dubawa found information available that points to the fact that other African countries, for instance Tanzania, have mobile money wallet to bank account transfer services available.
Tanzania has platforms that link and allow funds transfer from mobile wallet to bank accounts and even to wallets and accounts outside their country. In some cases, aggregators serve as a link between these accounts. Selcom, Craftsilicon or Cellantis are examples of such platforms that enable such transfers.
Dubawa further spoke to Victor Makere, Head of Digital Banking, Standard Chartered Bank, Tanzania, who explained that indeed mobile money wallet to bank account transfers are done in Tanzania in two ways.
The first way (Direct Integration between Mobile Network Operator and Bank) requires the bank to have a wallet with the mobile network provider. The second option is similar but between the bank account and MNO there is an aggregator.”
This was corroborated in another conversation with Emmanuel Mwinuka, Chief Information Officer (CIO), Absa Tanzania. He explained that mobile money wallet to bank account interoperability is functional in Tanzania.
He further indicated that there is a plan to launch a project called “Tanzania Instant Payment System (TIPS)” which will create a platform that supports instant centralised settlement between MNOs and bank accounts, bank accounts and MNOs and MNOs to other MNOs. This project will eventually fade out the existing interoperability systems that are in place, promoting ease.
Based only on the statement made by the vice president, this claim is false.
Ghana is not the first or only country to deliver on mobile money interoperability. It is also not the only African country to implement triangular interoperability.