PARIS—Mobile payments in developing parts of the world should add consumer services to create a more-attractive business case, industry experts said Tuesday at the Cartes & IDentification show in Paris. Mobile phones can serve as virtual lifelines for the 15% of the world's population that live on US$1 or less per day, said Nick Norman, commercial manager for United Kingdom-based Consult Hyperion. "If you are a vendor or (mobile) operator, this is a place to play," he said. Payments and funds-transfers made with mobile phones can replace such traditional and inefficient methods as handing an envelope of cash to a bus driver and hoping all the money reaches the intended recipient, Norman said, referring to a transfer method common in some remote parts of the globe. Kenya is one of the biggest success stories so far for mobile payments among poor consumers, he noted. In 2007, Kenya mobile-network operator Safaricom Ltd., aided by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, launched a service called M-Pesa. Consumers with mobile phones can use the service to transfer funds using a network of agents. The service has gained 7 million subscribers and processes transactions worth US$2 million (2.99 million euros) per day, Norman said, noting the average transaction size is US$20. Meanwhile, governments and aid agencies are turning to mobile phones to transfer welfare funds to consumers most in need, said Stephen Rasmussen, technology program manager for The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor. The group is based in the United States and includes more than two dozen development agencies. But providing social safety-net funds via mobile phones offers only a weak business case, Norman said. Mobile phones "must be able to do other things besides social payments," or the project will remain a largely donor-subsidized effort that produces no revenue or scant involvement from business, he said. Those additional services could include bill payments via mobile phones–as M-Pesa supports–or the ability for users to store savings through the mobile-phone channel and then earning interest on those stored funds. "People want more [services] once they get into it," Rasmussen said. While consumers are interested in saving and earning interest through mobile-phone networks, governments frown in the practice because regulations have yet to catch up to such demands, he added. Meeting those demands might require partnerships between mobile operators and banks, Rasmussen said. A successful mobile-payment effort for poor consumers also needs ample agents who can convert electronic credits to cash, he said. "You need distribution for cash-in, cash-out," Rasmussen said. "Poor people don't want just electronic money."

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