MTN Group has announced it will launch an instant messaging (IM) service akin to China’s WeChat and Facebook’s WhatsApp as it seeks to expand revenue from digital services and mobile money.
With the IM platform, which will form part of the group’s mobile money initiatives, MTN wants to build what group CEO Rob Shuter calls the “WeChat of Africa”. WeChat, developed by Naspers affiliate Tencent, is by far the largest IM app in China and offers a wide range of in-app services from chat to payments.
The app will be launched in MTN markets in West Africa first as part of a “beta-testing” phase. The plan is to introduce it to all the countries in which it operates, including South Africa. A key differentiator will be the ability for users to exchange messages who don’t have a data plan through interoperability with SMS.
At the same time, MTN will expand its mobile money offering from 14 to 18 markets, including South Africa. Though the group previously launched mobile money in South Africa only to later withdraw the service, Shuter said the group plans to take a different approach this time. Instead of competing with the banks by launching a full digital banking platform, the focus this time will be on the unbanked and underbanked segment of the population.
Key focus areas for 2019 are the launch of our own music streaming and instant messaging applications…
“We are successful (with mobile money) when we compete with cash,” Shuter said on a call with journalists on Thursday morning to unpack MTN’s annual results for the year ended 31 December 2018.
“We are extending our Bright strategy to build MTN into a digital operator with a major focus on the fintech, digital, enterprise and wholesale business areas,” Shuter said in a statement alongside the results. Continue reading