This week MTN’s Christopher Ssali spoke to PC Tech’s Nicholas Kamanzi about MTN Mobile Money. Here are the excerpts.
Q: Last Week I wrote about how There is Not a lot of Innovation around Mobile Money and how we are not seeing Mobile Money in the startup Area, And where we see it, the whole process is still so long and is similar to paying bill, does MTN have a Mobile Money API that developers can work with or you guys have nothing for developers?
A: It’s not entirely true that we don’t have a mobile money API and that mobile money is just used to send and receive money, what we must appreciate is that Mobile money like any other Innovation is a process, so we started about 4 years ago to develop Mobile Money and it was a new industry cause just Safaricom had launched it and there was no learning whatsoever and we started with only sending and receiving Money. Eventually we started having things like buying Airtime and Paying bills and I remember MTN was the first to introduce paying Bills via Mobile Money, the system has now matured and the knowledge around the system has also improved and that’s when we get things like APIs.
So around April Last year we got an API for Mobile Money and currently we have people doing Aggregations and Integrations using the Mobile Money API. So it’s not true to say we don’t have an API for Mobile Money; we have it but Mobile Money being a financial service we can’t just avail the API to anyone. We give it to people we have certified as proper Aggregators or integrators.
Q: Don’t you think that restricting the API is restricting the Innovations in the E-Commerce businesses in Uganda?
A: The API is available but in order to give this API we have to know you first, and what you are going to use it for but of course the young developers want to get it and get their hands dirty and trying out things but in order for us to hand it over we need to have you as a partner and if you have developers to play around it then it’s ok but it will be very difficult for us to just make the API available to everyone, but that is where we want to be and to be there we need to be sure that everyone touching this API will not affect our system.
Q: So what are some of the Aggregators and Integrators startups in the tech Industry that you guys have allowed to work with your API?
A: We have quite a number of them, infact we have all the leading partners in this area from Uganda and across Africa. Some of them include, PesaPal, Yo Uganda, Cellulant, Pegasus, and others. Then we also have the Individual companies that have come to us to do Integrations and these include local banks here in Uganda. Also we are currently working with some key online service providers like Kaymu, Lamudi and a few other startups to bring Mobile money on these e-commerce sites and this is going to be out in a month or so.
Q: What are you doing about the pain points in Mobile Money payments like the long processes someone has to go through to pay for a product?
A: As I said before there has been an Evolution and most websites still have these long processes but the Ideal way of doing this would be that if you are checking out of the shop (online), the online application would display the list of goods you have selected and the amount due. You then select payment, method, and that will be MTN Mobile Money then you would input your phone number and you will then receive an authentication message (request for Payment) on your phone which you have to verify with your Mobile Money PIN number. So am very happy to tell you that we have a request for Payment API and you don’t have to go through all those long process now.
Q: Does MTN still charge the customer for this transfer of Money or you reverse bill the seller?
A: It’s a transaction and we have to charge the customer for it but in future if we can make a deal with the a company selling like Kaymu and they give us a good percentage of the value the transaction then we will be able to zero rate the transaction fees.
Q: So another Article I wrote about this week is how I think Banks can start Eating Telecom’s Lunch and it is a speculation about how I think 5 – 10 years from now Banks Might take away your business if they intelligently use Visa and Smartphones, so what do you think about this?
A: Of course this might be possible but what I should tell you is that we are not resting because we are in the leading seat, we are investing a lot in our system to ensure stability, a lot in the agent Networks, as well as innovations to keep us afloat against all competition offerings.
Q: Where do you see the future of MTN Mobile Money with the raise of Smartphones and the Internet?
A: When you receive money we don’t want you to go and cash it out but in future we want that if someone like my mother in the village receives mobile money, they can be able to go just pay for everything from meat or Matooke at the market, and go to the shop and pay for anything she might want at the shop. . We also want be able to transact online and we are working on a Mobile Money App for smartphones which will be on play stores soon. Therefore as I said we are evolving the system and having a lot of learnings along the way. We must keep relevant and move along with the trends in the Mobile Money space.