MTN AI for Mobile Money

MTN has debuted the first Mobile Money (MoMo) artificial intelligence service in Africa. The company developed the AI service to aid users’ navigation when operating MTN‘s MoMo payment and other services.

MTN Group President and Chief Executive Officer, Rob Shuter, said the network operator is harnessing modern technologies like artificial intelligence to bring mobile payment solution closer to more than 60 million customers across Africa over the next few years.

Nairametrics had reported that the company has had its sight on Mobile Money operation in Nigeria for long, and MTN has disclosed its willingness to begin operation in Nigeria in the second half of 2019. Note that the AI was first deployed in Ivory Coast in May.

Why this matters: One of the ways the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) intends to deepen financial inclusion in Nigeria is to allow telecoms companies to operate mobile money services. MTN is one of the network providers who have stated its readiness to launch. Airtel has also declared interest but has yet to set a timeframe.

Between these telecoms operators are 100 million subscribers and the CBN plans to tap into the market base to gain access to the underbanked and underserved population. The telecoms companies will, however, be restricted from giving loans.

While speaking about the AI services, Shuter said;

“We are passionate about bringing the power of our mobile money solutions to more than 60 million customers across Africa over the next few years… We can also harness the power of artificial intelligence to provide our customers with the right answers to their questions at the right time.”

On MTN‘s impact on financial inclusion, Shuter said;

“We are committed to improving financial inclusion with a range of solutions aimed at addressing the needs of various market segments. While MTN has made great strides in these areas, we will continue working to deliver our vision for MTN to become one of the largest Fintech players across our footprint.”

MTN also said the company’s customers will be able to engage with MoMo services which include social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and via SMS.

ICT to monopolise mobile money marketMTN has about 50 million internet users in its cart, while Airtel accounts for 31 million, Globacom has 28 million subscribers, while 9mobile has 9 million, according to NCC. The only non-telecom mobile money operator that comes close to them is Paga with 8 million users.

While these numbers are added advantage for the rise of financial inclusion, they pose a threat to banks who don’t have a market base close to any telecoms company. The financial sector is basically scratching the surface in terms of numbers for their mobile money service while the ICT companies already have a strong base.

The Success of M-Pesa in Kenya is a motivating factor. M-Pesa was launched by Vodafone for Safaricom and Vodacom (all of whom are Telecommunications Companies). Now, 93 percent of Kenyans have access to mobile payments. M-Pesa now records more accounts than banks.

What you need to know: If the mobile money service is successful with the telecoms company like it did in Kenya, there is a probability that jobs will be lost in the banking sector, as Nigerians will no longer have to visit banks for financial transaction except when absolutely necessary.

Jobs could as well be created because these mobile money operators will need to establish agent networks across Nigeria. Some banks are already creating these jobs while Paga is the widest-reaching mobile money company, with over 14,000 agents across nearly 36 states. Therefore, more jobs will be needed if all the mobile money operators are to penetrate the unbanked communities.

However, the telecoms firms are against the minimum capital deposit of N5 billion set for them to operate mobile money services. The chairman of ALTON (Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria) Gbenga Adebayo questions why Microfinance Banks’ capital requirement is set at N2 billion, lower than that of telecoms when MFBs have wider service bouquet.

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