Transferring money to unbanked masses in Africa from GCC


Africa is the fastest growing mobile money market in the world with mobile phone penetration expected to reach 79 per cent by 2020 in sub-Saharan Africa. Researchers estimate that smartphone penetration in Africa will increase from 17 per cent at the end of 2014 to 34 per cent at the end of 2018 — doubling in just four years.

And global money transfer companies such as Xpress Money is making the maximum use of this trend.

Cash to wallet is said to be become a convenient tool for payments in an under developed country such Kenya, where many people don’t have access to banks. “One of the markets where this cash to mobile wallets product has picked up really well is Kenya, and there is a product called M-pesa in Kenya, which Xpress Money has partnered with,” Sudhesh Giriyan, chief operating officer at Xpress Money told Gulf News.

“This is a good service to the unbanked or under banked masses. In Africa the banking network is not that strong, so that’s how this mechanism came into being,” he said. 

M-pesa is a household brand in Kenya and it started as domestic money transfer in 2007, and through this Xpress Money is able to put money on to the mobile wallet issued by M-pesa all across Kenya by African expats in GCC and elsewhere.

M-pesa is owned by a company called Safaricom, which in turn is owned by Vodafone in Kenya.

Under this cash to mobile wallet, the money that goes on the mobile wallet can be used for person to person transfer, bill payments, cashing it out from 35,000 outlets in Kenya. The average ticket size entails $200-250 (Dh734-918) per transaction.

Direct transfer

A preregistered user can give the beneficiary’s mobile number in the destination country and it goes directly to the wallet of the beneficiary. Xpress Money currently has a partnership with MTN in Ghana, Groupe Telecom in Philippines, and Telenor in Pakistan, and plan to expand into a dozen more countries.

“We have already acquired 7,000 customers after we launched the product a few months back. We are constantly opening up in the GCC, Europe, North America, and Australia giving services to clients to Kenya, Ghana, Philippines and Pakistan,” said Giriyan.

All these transactions can be tracked and with a proper KYC (know your customer system). The customer may not have a proper account with the bank, but all settlements happen through a bank eventually.

Xpress Money plans to introduce this product in 12 countries in Africa and plans to expand the services to Uganda, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Congo and Bangladesh.

Mastercard has also tied up with government of Egypt, along with service providers, banks to exploit the penetration of mobile for financial inclusion.

The scheme, which includes the telephone service provider along with banks, MasterCard, the central bank, along with the Egyptian government plans to include about 54 million nationals on a mobile payment cloud that would facilitate payment.

An Egyptian with a smartphone or a feature phone, would have the functionality that would allow them to receive either salary or government pension, making it a safe way to keep money and pay a merchant, or pay utility bills and even remit money, Mastercard said.

Xpress growth

“The remittances have been growing pretty well. We are growing as a company. There would be a growth of 7-8 per cent in terms of remittances world wide, and something that we have seen in UAE markets. Compared to previous years, we have growing at a higher rate year on year, 15-20 per cent,” he said.

“We are able to achieve this because we have started operations in many countries, and plan to expand to 200 countries by the end of the year. We are able to constantly introduce new corridors, our numbers have constantly been on the up. We are also introducing multiple means to money transfer, we are constantly growing,” Giriyan added.

Xpress operates in about 150 countries across the globe and offers multiple channels of money transfer. Besides cash to cash offering, Xpress Money also does cash to bank transfer, cash to card, or cash to home.