Rwanda: Mobile Commerce Ignites More Rivalry Among Telecom Firms

MAY 29,2014.


Competition to continues to intensify as local telecom firms try to provide subscribers as many service options as possible to outclass rivals.

Presently, the competition turf is concentrated in the mobile business segment, where all the three local telecom firms are increasing service options on their mobile commerce platforms to maximise the opportunities presented by the rise in mobile phone penetration.

According to the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (Rura) February statistics, 64.5 per cent of about 11 million people in Rwanda own a mobile phone. MTN has 3,547,411 users, followed by Tigo with 2,248,866, while Airtel has 1,004,229 subscribers.

Teddy Bhullar, the Airtel managing director, said the financial sector offers telecoms immense opportunities, to reach the masses that banks do not reach.

"This, therefore, gives telecoms a big advantage to tap into the unbanked population and grow the mobile commerce market segment, as well as extend financial services to the people," Bhullar said in an interview with The New Times.

He noted that all the telecom firms are focusing on this unbanked population as they seek to entrench their market positions.

The telecoms have of recent rolled out utility service payment options on their mobile money platforms, with the payment of construction permits going mobile early this month. The system, supported by all the three telecoms, reduces the cost and time of obtaining construction permits. It also makes it flexible for real estate developers and investors to process permits in the comfort of their offices or homes.

This month, MTN partnered with Prime Life Assurance, an insurer, to offer life insurance services to the lower market segment. People can now pay for policy or subscribe for life insurance cover using their mobile money accounts.

Gregoire Minani, the Prime Life Assurance chief executive officer, said subscribers can buy policies ranging from Rwf4,525 to Rwf21,625 per year using this option.

These two recent innovations are some of the developments that experts say will boost the mobile commerce platform's. Other services payable using mobile money include water and electricity bills, TV monthly subscription, bus fares, as well as money transfer, buying airtime and filing tax returns.

Last year, over Rwf330b (about $492.3m) was pushed through mobile money platforms, a 105 per cent increase from Rwf161b (about $240.2m) recorded in 2012, according to the National Bank of Rwanda figures. Experts predict that mobile commerce platforms will grow faster in Rwanda than automated teller machines and points of sale devices.