Mobile money, which has revolutionized banking in Africa has landed in Europe. Vodafone has brought the service to Romania M-Pesa text-message transactions to millions of customers in its first push into Europe
Vodafone said it had chosen Romania to target the seven million people there who still mainly use cash rather than cards, and others with bank accounts who could still benefit from transferring money by text.
Customers can use M-Pesa to pay for goods, pay bills, make deposits and withdraw cash from authorised agents.
“The majority of people in Romania have at least one mobile device, but more than one third of the population do not have access to conventional banking,” said Vodafone’s director of mobile money, Michael Josep.
Services such as M-Pesa have helped Vodafone, the world’s second largest mobile operator by customer numbers, to support revenues and grow customer loyalty at a time of falling prices for basic telecoms services such as calls.
M-Pesa was launched in Kenya in 2007 through Safaricom, since then the service has spread rapidly and in the last 12 months it has rolled the service out to its operations in Egypt, India, Lesotho and Mozambique.
16.8 million customers were actively using the service by the end of last year, making more than US$1.2 billion worth of transactions per month.
Vodafone had 8.3 million customers in Romania at the end of last year.
In Europe Vodafone is likely to focus its mobile money service on east or central Europe. It also has operations in Hungary and Czech Republic and a presence through partnerships with other operators in Latvia, Poland and Austria.
In Romania, Vodafone customers will be able to transfer money via the text messaging technology once they have activated the service at a Vodafone retail store, participating retail outlets or through authorized agents.