New mobile financial services offering from Latin American giant

Latin American operator Telefonica is launching its mobile financial services offering – and has declared that it will avoid the pitfalls that affected early mobile money deployments in Africa and Asia.

The new services are going live in 12 of the operator’s Latin American markets, which between them have 87 million subscribers. Aimed at both banked and unbanked customers, the services are being offered as part of a joint venture with MasterCard.

The firm’s director of new businesses, Pablo Montesano, said: . “We have learnt some ‘do’s and don'ts’ from the early experiences [in Asia and Africa], which have saved us maybe three or four years of making mistakes. Mobile money is not just a new service, it’s a new business. You need the right skills and resources, and we didn’t have the right resources to begin with.”

Noting that the continent had its own individual set of challenges, Montesano continued: “Latin America isn’t Africa. Argentina has a GDP that is ten times that of Kenya, and a more developed banking sector. Plus, not many of us have the 80 percent market share that [M-PESA operator] Safaricom has in Kenya. We need scale, so we need to connect with other operators.”

The new services will offer customers the ability to transfer money from account to account, as well as make purchases, top up their airtime and pay bills. Latin America’s mobile financial transactions are forecast to have a collected value of around US$63 billion by 2014.

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