* Huge growth in mobile money transfers in east Africa
* Tanzania's total mobile phone subscribers 27 million
By Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala
DAR ES SALAAM, June 5 Tigo Tanzania, a unit of
emerging markets telecom group Millicom Cellular International,
said it had added 1 million mobile money service users over the
past year and now wants to expand further in the fast-growing
Mobile money transfers, pioneered by Vodafone's Kenyan unit
Safaricom, have grown rapidly in east Africa, offering
companies an easy way to tap a market where many people do not
have bank accounts.
Users can use such services to pay for goods, pay bills,
make deposits and withdraw cash from authorised agents using
Tigo, the No. 3 mobile phone operator in Tanzania, has over
6.2 million out of the total 27 million mobile phone subscribers
in the nation of 45 million people.
Diego Gutierrez, Tigo Tanzania's general manager, told
Reuters the company's mobile money transfer service, Tigo Pesa,
was a key growth area which already accounted for a significant
share of the company's total revenue. He did not specify what
the share was.
"Mobile money is a very important part of our business and
it is growing at a very accelerated rate," Gutierrez said,
adding that Tigo Pesa now has 3.4 million users.
Tigo announced on Wednesday a deal with two other mobile
phone operators in Tanzania - Bharti Airtel and
Zantel, a subsidiary of Etisalat - that would allow
customers of the three telecom firms to conduct mobile money
transfers across their networks.
Gutierrez said the mobile money transfer agreement, the
first of its kind in Africa, would further expand the use of
mobile money transfers in east Africa's second-biggest economy.
He said there was still plenty of growth in Tanzania's
competitive telecom sector, helped by favourable demographics
which boast a young population
"This young population is starting to enter into the economy
so I think that the perspectives of growth for Tanzania are
quite interesting," he said.
Tigo launched a mobile money transfer service between
Tanzania and Rwanda in February, opening a potentially lucrative
market in cross-border mobile transfers.
Vodacom Tanzania, an arm of leading South African mobile
operator Vodacom, is Tanzania's No. 1 mobile phone firm
with 10.3 million subscribers, followed by Bharti Airtel, which
has 9 million customers.
(Editing by Drazen Jorgic and Pravin Char)