Walid Abd al-Adhim and Sara Aggour
Recent turmoil and political instability have taken a toll on mobile phone money transfer services, concluded a report by Banks and Finance.
Hazim Higazi, chairman of the Retail and Branches Division within the National Bank of Egypt (NBE), said that the bank, in cooperation with the telecommunications company Eitsalat, first began to offer mobile phone money transfer services towards the end of last month, describing it as a new, modern service being offered on the market.
Low rates of usage for the service were the result of political turmoil, Higazi said, adding many are unaware of the existence of the service, which may necessitate advertising campaigns from banks for its effective promotion.
Khaled Hegazy, the director of the External and Government Relations division at Vodafone Egypt, said that the free-service has so far proven “a success” and has already gained thousands of users among the company’s customers. Hegazy added however that political unrest had impacted usage volumes, saying they “didn’t pick up as expected.”
Higazi meanwhile said that NBE would finish developing all necessary equipment and technology needed to operate the service by the end of July. He noted that the service would allow users to transfer money from one bank account to another via mobile phones, by way of locked messages sent between users, containing the personal bank information of those individuals to whom users sought to send money. Funds would then be transferred in real time from the nearest bank branch to the mobile company, or from those banks who have signed agreements with the company.
He expected the service to increase in popularity over the coming months, pointing out however that this would be dependent upon the stability in the country, and the success with which companies could effectively launch advertising campaigns for the service.
On Vodafone’s expectations for the service, Hegazy said the company expects “the service to pick-up soon after things cool down in the political arena.”
The government and the Central Bank of Egypt recently placed controls and restrictions on the transfer of money locally via mobile phones, including limiting of the amount of money able to be transferred to EGP 5,000 monthly, with the maximum amount permitted per transfer totaling EGP 1,000, with a maximum daily limit being placed at EGP 3,000.
Ashraf Al-Ghamrawi, executive chairman of Al-Baraka Bank, stated that the bank was currently negotiating with a mobile services provider company to begin offering mobile phone money transfer services. He added that the bank had not struck any prior agreements with any other companies.
As a new addition to the Egyptian market, Ghamrawi said that the service would need to be shown to users via a widespread advertising campaign. He expected fierce competition between companies seeking to offer the service.
Representatives from Banque Misr stated that they would try to begin offering mobile phone money transfer services to customers in the near future. They said the bank was in the process of finishing development of the necessary equipment and technologies needed to begin offering the service, which they expected to take place within the coming month. Ghamrawi added that banks would need to begin training employees in how to use the service in the coming months.
Abed Al-Rahman Al-Baasat, deputy director of Bank Operations at the Housing and Development Bank, said the bank had begun launching mobile phone money transfer services last month, saying that so far indicators showed that the service was popular amongst users.
He stated that it was natural for political turmoil to have a negative effect on any sector of the economy. However he refused to announce how many accounts the bank had opened in recent months via the new service, saying that according to agreements reached with Vodafone it was the latter which would be responsible for releasing any data regarding the new program.
As regard’s Vodafone focus for the service, Hegazy said several governorates have seen usage, but the highest rates have been in Cairo and Alexandria.
Translated from Al-Borsa