KIGALI May 13 Tigo Rwanda, a telecom brand
owned by Millicom Cellular International (MIC), on Friday
launched its mobile money services in Rwanda, targeted at
subscribers with limited or no access to banking services.
Tigo Rwanda is the second mobile company to launch such a
service after South Africa-based MTN's (MTNJ.J) local unit
launched its mobile money product in February 2010, acquiring
about 260,000 subscribers by March this year.
Tigo has similar services in Ghana and Tanzania.
Rwanda's rural areas have limited access to financial
services, with the central bank saying only 1.7 million deposit
accounts had been registered by December 2010 out of a
population of 9 million.
With about 3.3 million mobile subscribers shared between MTN
and Tigo as of January this year, Rwandan mobile users can
utilise the technology to deposit and withdraw money and can pay
electricity bills and school fees via text messages.
"Tigo Cash is basically a wallet on your mobile phone. You
don't have to have a bank account," said Tom Gutjahr, Tigo
Rwanda's chief executive.
Licensed to operate in Rwanda two years ago, MCL said Tigo
Cash can send between $1 and $550.
John Sebabi, head of payment systems at Rwanda's central
bank, said the new service would deepen financial services.
"If the number of mobile phone exceeds that of bank
accounts, then access to financial services is growing which is
line with our objectives of increasing access to such services,"
Mobile operators in east Africa handle tens of millions of
dollars worth of transactions in a region where a minority of
people hold bank accounts and the banking infrastructure in
rural areas remains limited.
MTN Rwanda says it has transferred more than $22 million
dollars in mobile payments since February 2010 and is targeting
300,000 subscribers by the end of this year.
(Editing by David Holmes)