Mobile Money & Mobile Content

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SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

Everybody knows that VOD is the future of content distribution on the African continent – a space that is currently dominated by Showmax, iflix/Kwese Play and Netflix, with Apple TV, YouTube Premium and Amazon Prime also trying to establish themselves in this market. In addition to these large players, the sheer number of African-based streaming platforms is dizzying. iROKO, Tultuntulu, AcornTV, TV2Go and the newly-launched Viu in the South African market, are just some of the platforms now available.

Within this space, however, one of the more interesting trends is the growing convergence between mobile content providers and mobile money platforms, and where this confluence might lead.

As mobile operators increase their ability to act as both broadcaster and bank – via their content platforms and mobile money operations – African banks are more and more finding themselves in competition for customers and are therefore having to find innovative ways to operate, and even move into the content space.

Smart phones across Africa are fast-becoming the ‘new TV’, as well as the ‘new wallet’, and this on top of the fact that most people who access the internet in Africa do so via their mobile phone, with more than 80% of broadband in Africa being accessed via smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.  In South Africa alone, 2.6 billion gigabytes were accessed in 2018, with only 651 million of these via fixed broadband. The rest – over two billion gigs’ of data – was accessed on mobile devices, while in Nigeria we observe the same trend, with just over one billion gigs being utilised and only 200 gigs of this via fixed broadband.

It’s important to note that within Africa, retail banking penetration stands at half the global average for emerging markets – at 38% of the gross domestic product, according to management consulting firm McKinsey. Telcos have rapidly filled this gap, with Safaricom’s M-Pesa, MTN Mobile Money, Orange Money, Tigo Cash or Tigo Pesa, Vodafone Cash and Airtel Money just being some of the mobile money platforms present across sub-Saharan Africa.  According to a report by GSMA, mobile money transactions are growing at a rate of over 17% annually since 2017, with over 135 mobile money platforms facilitating over 122 million active accounts and processing over $20 billion in transactions – or 63% of mobile money transactions worldwide.

Mobile money platforms in Africa are a massive business with a massive consumer base, and so it makes perfect sense for banks to ‘get in’ on this market, which is currently dominated by the telecommunications companies.  Banks are seeing that cooperation with the telcos, rather than competition, is the only route for the future.

For example, last year saw the emergence of a partnership between MTN and Ecobank that enabled Ecobank and MTN Mobile Money customers to transfer money between mobile money wallets and bank accounts.

The banks have also quickly learned that the best way to attract young customers to their mobile (or traditional) banking platforms is through wholly owned and operated content platforms. Within this space, once again we find Nigeria leading the way.

In Nigeria alone, the following banks have launched streaming content platforms and are using content to reach a newer, digitally-savvy market:

United Bank for Africa: REDTV is a Pan-African lifestyle entertainment channel that focuses on engaging content from around the continent.

  • Access Bank: Accelerate TV features the Accelerate Film Maker Project,which aims to take young aspiring filmmakers and turn them into film festival veterans.
  • Diamond Bank: MyDiamondTV is a multimedia platform designed to entertain, educate and inform its viewers by documenting Nigerian pop culture, fashion and beauty, while keeping an eye on the business space as well.

In Kenya, meanwhile, Guaranty Trust Bank has launched Ndani TV. Ndani means ‘inside’ in Swahili, and that is the channel’s stated singular proposition: to take you inside Africa.

However, if one really wants to see the future of mobile money and mobile content, look no further than France’s Orange Studios and Orange telecommunications, who are rapidly starting to own the entire content value chain within Africa.

The French company is opening cinema chains and making content available digitally, with Orange Studios increasing its efforts to boost production and exhibition across Africa, where the film and TV arm of France’s leading telco operator, Orange, has a growing footprint.

Orange Studio has a number of African film projects in different stages of development, with the goal of producing six to ten projects per year across the continent, as well as moving into TV production, with its first series in Burkina Faso, and – via a partnership with Orange Senegal – to develop TV content in the West African nation.

Orange is also shrewdly bringing to three African markets a US$20 smart feature phone called Sanza (from April), with plans to take the device into 13 more markets in the near future. The 3G-capable smart feature phone will first come to Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte, KaiOS and Orange announced at the World Mobile Congress 2019. The phone will be priced starting at $20 with Orange services packages – which implies that Orange will subsidise the device for the local markets.

Moreover, in late-2018, MTN and Orange launched Mowali: a continent-wide mobile money interoperability joint venture, which allows users to send money between mobile money accounts across different providers. The service is immediately open to users of MTN Money and Orange Money, but can also be enabled for other mobile money providers (including banks), thereby having the potential to serve the more than 300 million mobile money users in Africa.

Orange has quietly gone about developing a complete mobile content and mobile money value chain that seamlessly integrates every aspect – from production to consumption.

As the worlds of mobile money and mobile content continue to merge, it will be interesting to see how these platforms, with built-in customer bases of tens of millions, compete with the major players in the streaming world in the battle for content and viewers.

The advantages held by mobile network operators in terms of their ability to discount data costs, enable seamless mobile money payments and leverage massive consumer bases should enable their success. Only time will tell.

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Lara Utian-Preston
Lara Utian-Preston is a passionately committed marketer and strategist with a focus on promoting African content and events. Two decades of working across Africa have provided her with insights and experience that she puts to work for the projects she manages. In 2006, Lara founded, and still personally manages, Red Flag Content Relations, a full service below-the-line agency that also focuses on African entertainment and lifestyle brand marketing, strategy, and publicity.

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