Effective March 15, customers of different mobile money service providers in Rwanda will be able to transact with each other by making direct payments from different mobile money wallets, according to sources in the Eastern African country.
This comes after a resolution was adopted by the only two telecom operators in Rwanda – MTN ands Airtel – as a result of dialogues initiated by R-Switch, the national e-payment services provider.
“There is a system created for the clients of all telecoms to transact seamlessly and it has been live since December 2021, but in a closed loop since it was still in the pilot,” a senior official at R-Switch told Rwanda news outlet, The New Times.
The source then disclosed that the commercial launch of the payment gateway system for the public is scheduled on March 15, stating that lack of this interoperable system was a great barrier to cashless economy.
The development was also confirmed by Jean Claude Gaga, the Airtel Money Managing Director.
He said that the development will help address some of the outstanding hindrances to a cashless economy that the country strives to achieve.
Among some of the gains that clients will benefit from the move, Gaga highlights that the subscribers to either telco will have freedom to send money to a line from a different operator which has not been possible.
“So the whole idea is to open up our channels and distributions to merchants and we hope that customers will have multiple choices and a better experience, but all in all, to promote a cashless economy,” he said.
Gaga however did not disclose whether there will be different in charges incurred while sending to a different network, saying that this was still the subject of ongoing negotiations.
Josephine Barakagwira, a mobile money agent in Kanombe in Kicukiro District welcomed this development, saying it will facilitate their daily work.
“It is going to increase our business because some were turned away by limited transfer options between different providers, but once the systems are integrated, it is going to make our work simpler, and scale up the customers,” she observed.
Customers will start mobile money transfers between different providers after the parliament enacted the interoperability law in June 2021.
The uptake of digital transactions has over the past years been on the increase in Rwanda, and was even given a major boost during the outbreak of Covid-19 at the beginning of 2020, when Rwandans were urged to use cashless means to avoid contagion.
Between January and April 2020, the funds transferred via mobile money rose by 450 per cent to reach Rwf40 billion (over $42 million), according to data from RURA.
Ghana was the first to launch a very elaborate mobile money interoperability platform that connects, not just mobile money wallets, but also wallets to bank account and mobile money wallets to other digital wallets across the country.
The platform allows easy transfers between all wallets across networks, wallet to bank, and bank to wallets. It has been recording the highest volumes of transactions on the Ghana Interbank Payments and Settlements Systems (GhIPSS) platform since its launch.
Mobile Money Interoperability in Ghana, has proven to be a very effective channel for driving financial inclusion, as it has practically provided over 15 million Ghanaians with bank accounts in their pockets.