Africa > Southern Africa > Bornman du Toit, MTN Group’s General Manager for Products, Services and Innovation

Southern Africa: Bornman du Toit, MTN Group’s General Manager for Products, Services and Innovation

2013/03/31

There is no doubt that Africa is a hot bed for Mobile Banking and Mobile Money. In this issue, glObserver catches up with Bornman du Toit, MTN Group’s General Manager for Products, Services and Innovation, to get a lowdown on mobile telecom industry in Africa.

Q: Can you tell us about MTN and the service and products the company offers?
A: MTN understands that each customer is different from the next and hence we endeavour to tailor solutions according to customers’ immediate and next needs, from presently on being aware of the financial and technological barriers they face.
We have therefore embarked on a drive to lower barriers to entry like ultra-low cost handsets, low denomination recharge vouchers, up to 100% discounts on voice calls via our world MTN Zone service and again digital services like the MTN Opera Mini Browser to lower cost of surfing the web and enable faster downloads speeds.

International Airtime Transfer is from presently on an extra service that allows customers residing outside the borders of our territories to top-up their loved ones, via our business partner’s far reaching distribution networks. At the core of our offering is making connectivity easier and affordable, thereby enabling friends and family to be connected, and businesses to operate efficiently and drive economic increase.

Last year, we launched the revamped MTN Play, which is amount about bringing our customers news, lifestyle and infortaining content on a platform that is engaging and easier to use and navigate. This is content that is unique and relevant to the customer’s interests and geographical location.

And again we have MTN Mobile Money, which is transforming lives across the continent. MTN believes that for consumers in Africa to be full participants of the digital world, they need access to financial services from each device. We are working towards making that a reality for amount our customers through MTN Mobile Money.
Since its introduction, the service has served to improve access to financial services for millions of the continent’s formerly unbanked. It is available on the majority basic handset. Our various operating companies (Opcos) use agents on the ground to help customers register for MTN Mobile Money. The agents as well serve to educate customers on how to use their Mobile Money accounts, deposit and withdraw funds from their Mobile Money accounts, and assist with any transacting difficulties, inclunding transfer knowledge of new products launched on Mobile Money. The service is present in 13 of our markets with Uganda and Rwanda showing tremendous uptake and increase.
Bridging the digital divide is as well a core focus of ours. In remote areas of Rwanda, for instance, which are not connected to the power grid, MTN’s Comeka ReadySet, which is a portable solar energy system MTN launched recently, is improving access to energy and telecommunications for amount Rwandans.

Considerate the role of ICT in empowering enterprises, MTN launched the trial of MTN Cloud in December, focusing on SMEs in six of the Group’s key markets in Africa - South Africa, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Uganda. Described as pay-as-you use IT, cloud computing is the new offering in IT. It is intended to assist businesses run efficiently using fewer resources while at the same time reducing operation costs.

Q: What part of Africa does MTN cover?
A: MTN Group has operations in 21 nations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In Africa, we operate in Ghana, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Republic, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo (Congo Brazzaville), Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, and Zambia. MTN has mobile (GSM) licences in 21 nations and internet service provider (ISP) businesses in 13 nations.

Q: Can you describe the telecom market in Africa? Is it saturated or is there still room for competition?
A: The telecom market in Africa is exciting and challenging at the same time.
The market continues to present immense opportunities for increase, particularly at the same time as you look at mobile penetration levels, people increase, and economic increase in Africa.
According to research by Informa Telecoms & Media, Africa’s mobile subscriptions will reach 1-billion formerly the end of 2015. This can only be considered good news for the industry.
That said, competition in some of our markets is tightening up. This is slightly concerning, particularly in the relatively small nations where you have a high number of players. We don’t think that is sustainable in the long term as such “saturation” leads to fierce price wars, which are not healthy for anyone.

Q: Is voice traffic still an significant part of the telecom business in Africa or is data outperforming it? If data is to outperform voice, how can telecom companies face up to the challenge?
A: As MTN, our view is that data traffic is going to continue to grow completely significantly for a while.
If you look at the fact that the penetration of data in most of our markets, South Africa included, is still relatively low, we think that there is a great opportunity as far as data is concerned.
We belief that data traffic is going to be significant someday and this is why MTN is investing in infrastructure to ensure that we have the capacity to be able to handle the data traffic as we get higher levels of penetration in terms of devices and handsets.

Q: Mobile banking and Mobile money are very strong in Africa, what role has MTN played in the development of mobile banking/mobile money in Africa?
A: MTN has long believed in the potential of mobile phones to transform the lives of customers in emerging markets. This is why MTN launched MTN Mobile Money, which is by presently the majority popular method of conducting transactions in a lot of of our markets, and is driving the increase and expansion of this service.
In Uganda for example, MTN Mobile Money customers have reached a staggering 3.5 million users. This is just in over 3 years since the service’s launch in that country. It repeated the same feat in Rwanda, where MTN introduced MTN Mobile Money in February 2010. Since again it has become a major success story in Rwanda’s telecom industry. With over 3.2 million customers, MTN Rwanda presently has slightly additional than 700,000 MTN Mobile Money users and has transaction volumes of over $150 million by the end of 2012. This is just in three years of operation.

For MTN, it is significant that amount our customers be part of this bold, new digital world that is changing how people access basic services such as health, education and financial services. In communities where MTN Mobile Money has gained significant traction, the result has been a fundamental shift in the rural and peri-urban economies.

For example, traders and fishermen in remote villages in Rwanda and Uganda presently use MTN Mobile Money to receive payment for their product, and as well pay for goods and services that they order. The key benefit in this instance, other than convenience, is that these entrepreneurs presently no longer face the risk associated with carrying large sums of cash.
The service is just as popular part working professionals in the cities. A lot of of them use Mobile Money to purchase airtime, send funds to friends and families, pay school fees, pay their utility bills, and even transfer money out of the country with Western Union seamlessly on their mobiles. The service is safe, easy to use, convenient, and reliable. It is as well available even on the majority basic of handsets.
In next, we foresee Mobile Money services growing to as well include savings and online purchases.

Q: In your opinion, what does Africa needs to make it a world leader in technology innovation?
A: Universal access to broadband services, which is what MTN through its focus on digitisation, wants to drive. We believe that digitization is a great equalizer. It will eliminate the distinction between the prime and third worlds, and enable Africa to compete entirely with the rest of the world, operating on an equal footing, at the same time driving creativity and innovation on the continent.

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