Battle begins for Africa's mobile banking business

Wed Jan 26, 2011 11:54am GMT

* Mobile banking in Africa to hit $22 bln by 2015-consultant

* Network-agnostic startups seek to gain an edge

* Remittance flows could get tapped

By Simon Akam

FREETOWN, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Remigius Okafor's hair-care products distributors used to risk theft by carrying thousands of dollars into Sierra Leone's ramshackle capital to pay him for supplies.

But now the majority pay him with their cellphones, using one of a variety of mobile banking technologies that are competing for a rapidly growing African market.

"It is very, very convenient," Okafor said, sitting at the back of a tunnel-like store hung with weaves and other hair extensions. "The agent is happy because he finds it difficult to waste a whole day at the bank."

Mobile banking is expected to grow into a $22 billion industry across Africa by 2015 on the back of skyrocketing cellphone use and growing demand for financial services, according to consultancy Juniper Research.   Continued...

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