29 Jul 2012

A second look at Mobile Money in Nigeria

I decided to get on board mobile money this weekend. With some snooping I got the options of Paga, PocketMoni, QikQik and U-Mo. Question then is who do I pitch with? (By the way, why is it a bit hard to find a list of mobile money service providers in Nigeria? None of the providers above even showed up in the first page of my search.)

To decide what provider to go for, it's necessary to re-evaluate what I really want in the first place. In the end, my (as well as many other users') core motivation is easy access to and use of my money anytime, anywhere. It is that simple. And if it should be that simple, what do I (we) want?

  1. Easy sign up
  2. Easy and ubiquitous top up
  3. Easy cash transfer
  4. Easy payment of bills

Easy sign up

I want to be able to get started right here, right now. I don't even want to open my laptop, connect to the internet, visit a website or download any application. In other words, I want to be able to do this via sms or USSD.

Paga allows sms registeration. I have to dig deep into the FAQ to find that though. More than half of users coming to the site either wants to know more about the service or sign up. I see no reason why a Send 'register xyz to 111' banner shouldn't gracefully welcome site visitors.

QikQik's simple design and banners would have utilized this, but you can only register through the website or an agent. That's a fail to me.

I signed up at QikQik anyways. What did I get? A "Thank you" from the website and the mail

Website Feedback

Your message has been received. Thank you for submitting your information to QikQik

via the email feedback@eartholeum.com. No login details or further pointers. Pheeew!

U-Mo uses USSD for Airtel, Glo and Etisalat subscribers. MTN? Well, only by downloading the java app or through the website. Arrghhh. I tried signing up via the website. First, I got welcomed with a poorly designed terms of service. I lied about "reading" and accepted. Then I got a long boring form. WTF? To make matters worst, the url has taken me outside u-mo.net to a freeddom domain. Who does that?

PocketMoni uses sms registeration through a short code. No web registeration. It wasn't hard to find. I had to go to the register page though. Having it on the home page would have been perfect.

Easy and ubiquitous top up

So I got an account and want to fund it. All the providers allow you pay to specific bank accounts or through an agent. But hey, I don't want to go to the bank or start looking for an agent! Yeah, yeah, I know the possibilities of doing this from my phone is a bit slim. (Just by the way, what is the possiblity of funding my account with my phone's airtime? Just by the way). But what are the other options? What's the possibility of funding directly from my ATM card?

Paga allows you fund your account directly from your (Verve and Mastercard) ATM card. Simple and works.

I have no idea what's up with QikQik as at the time of writing this, I am yet to receive any response to my registeration.

PocketMoni allows you to fund using your etranzact powered ATM card. Question however is how many people use an etranzact card? The good part though is you don't have to sign into your account to fund. Just the card and PocketMoni account details and that's all.

U-Mo is a fail. The user account site (under that freeddom domain) sucks. You can pratically do nothing than view logs of your transaction. The alternative is therefore through agents or direct bank payment and then via the USSD service.

Easy cash transfer

This is the height. I want to be able to transfer money from my account to anybody. Anybody! It's only optional he/she has an account with the provider. I want to even imagine the beneficiary does not have an account with the provider.

Paga allows transfer both from the site and sms. The beneficiary either claims the cash through an agent or register with paga. Not bad. But not my perfect want. Can't we strike out registering?

QikQik? Let's just leave out QikQik from here.

U-Mo and PocketMoni do this well. You can transfer from the mobile application to any bank account. It sucks you can't do via web though.

Easy payment of bills

How easy can you pay for simple utility bills? I don't, but most users do.

U-Mo allows you payment of DSTV, Aero, PHCN, Red Cross Donation and Swift Internet.

Paga allows DSTV, GoTV, Sickle Cell Advocacy and Management Initiative, DealDey, Guaranty Trust Assurance, ADIC Insurance and some others.

Basically I will say PocketMoni allows payment of just cable bills DSTV, MyTV, HiTV and TrendTV.

The only utility bill I pay is PHCN and it's through a proxy so this part does not really interest me. Interesting part is all the providers allow you purchase airtime. So, again, I can't rate here.

The undocumented chapter

I must really say I am disappointed at usability on Paga and U-mo's website. Paga bugged me with too many security questions that I'm almost asking myself if the account is really mine. U-Mo takes some minutes to load an annoying flash animation in the home page. The site then loads any link you click within the animation iframe. Paga loads in the same convention. You can't even bookmark any direct link. I can go on ranting about this but I have decided to make that a different blog post on its own.

That concludes my 2 kobo. Overall, I will say these providers still have a way to go. My choice? I'm confused not impressed yet. I have 3 mobile money accounts now though.

My name is Opeyemi Obembe. I build things for web and mobile. You should follow me on Twitter (@kehers).