The GSMA, a global body representing operators, predicts Tanzania will be among the top seven subscriber markets in sub-Saharan Africa in the next five years. And while Kenya’s M-pesa has won international plaudits for its groundbreaking mobile money system, Tanzania has arguably overtaken its northern neighbour in the depth of its mobile money market. The World Bank reported last year there were more mobile money accounts per 1,000 adults in Tanzania than anywhere else in Africa.
Johannesburg-listed Vodacom, which is majority owned by Vodafone, is the largest mobile operator by subscriber numbers. Its main rivals are Tigo, a brand name of Stockholm-listed Millicom, and India’s Bharti Airtel. Together, the three operators control some 90 per cent of the market of 34m active mobile contracts out of a population of 55m.
“Mobile money is so successful because the competition is cash, not the banks,” says Diego Gutierrez, Tigo’s general manager for Tanzania. Some 60 per cent of adults have mobile money wallets in the country, while only 15 per cent have bank accounts, Tigo says.
“I believe we’re just scratching the surface,” Mr Gutierrez adds. “Fintech is going to drive the development of mobile financial services. I believe that Tanzania is showing the way as to where mobile money is going. If it’s not the most advanced it’s one of the most advanced markets.”