Thursday, October 29, 2009

Is the US really the biggest market for Mobile Banking

Navi Radjou published an interview with Carol Realini recently (read here). In this article Carol made a number of statements that I think one should analyse a bit further:
  • That the US is the next big market for banking the under-banked. She base this statement on a statistic that 106 million citizens in the US are underbanked. Considering that these people are spread over many states (all with different banking legislation) it would be difficult to offer a service to all of them. If one then compares the realities and size of this market with countries like Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Brazil or Mexico (to name just a few), this statement smacks of ignorance.
  • The article reference the recent Economist publication (Read here) as if this is Obopay technology. Careful reading will show that MTN Banking and MPESA are referenced only and very different technology suppliers have made this possible. These are true African success stories made possible by the real pioneers of the industry.
  • She makes the statement that mobile banking has not been able to scale because Operators have worked with closed networks and that the answer is open standards. Well, the reality is different. Massive penetration have been achieved by closed systems: Smart Money, GCash, mPay (in Thailand), mPesa etc. This statement is just not accurate.
Africa was the inspiration for Carol's company when she visited the continent in 2002, as she indicate in these interviews. I do hope that the fact that Kinshasa is the capital of Kenya as is implied in another Realini interview (Read here), is a mistake by the publishers. Knowing how big the African continent is, how big the need is and the progress that is being made by Africans for Africans, the statement that the US is the next big market is a bit ironic.

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