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Thursday, 15 December 2016

CBE releases new mobile payments regulations, aims to expand usage

The CBE wants to transform the digital economy: The Central Bank of Egypt released new regulations governing mobile payment services designed to expand use of the service in Egypt, according to an emailed statement. The new version of the “Mobile Payments Regulations” is part of the CBE’s drive to enhance financial inclusion, or FI as it’s often called.That’s banker-speak for getting the masses to trust their cash to the banking system, and as one of the smartest bankers we know said yesterday, “FI is going to be one of the big themes of 2017.”

Will subsidies one day be transferred via welfare beneficiaries’ phones? Expanding mobile payments, the central bank says, will open the door for a wide array of new financial services, such as payroll, bill payment, collection of microfinance installments, in addition to government payments — all from a mobile bank account. You can read the CBE’s statement on the regs here (pdf).

Under the regulations, banks will be able to employ agents to deliver services including the establishment and verification of customer identity — and micro-enterprises, organizations and merchants will be able to pay or collect funds through their mobile accounts. Notably, the regs will also allow the transfer of funds between a client’s mobile bank account and other accounts at the same bank.

Lobna Helal, deputy CBE Governor, says the new regulations aim to support a transition towards a “less-cash economy” and to promote financial inclusion, utilizing the widespread of mobile phones nationwide. The mobile payments system was launched in Egypt three years ago and has grown to include 6.2 mn customers since. Assistant Sub-Governor Ayman Hussein said the new regulations will make it possible for customers of mobile network operator number “x” to make payments to customers on MNOs “y” and “z”. As matters today, Vodafone customers can only transfer to other Vodafone customers, Orange to Orange, et cetera.

This would be an excellent opportunity to read more about how Kenya has come to lead the world in mobile payments through adopting M-PESA. How ubiquitous have mobile payments become in Kenya? Besides them being used to offer loans and savings products and to disburse salaries or pay bills, 43% of the country’s economy flowed through M-PESA in 2013. Daniel Runde writes in Forbes: “Groups that typically have limited access to formal financial services have benefited from the financial products offered through M-Pesa. In particular, its short-term Pay Bill Account service allows users to fundraise for a variety of purposes, including expenses relating to medical needs, education, and disaster relief. M-Pesa has also empowered business creation—many small companies rely on M-Pesa for nearly all transactions, or provide a service that is a derivative of the platform itself.”

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