By JULIUS BARIGABA

In a country without a well-developed financial infrastructure – where the mobile phone has often been used as a form of currency – the launch of mobile money services by Zain has come as a huge blessing for millions of South Sudanese.

Zain launched the first mobile money service in the country after persistent reports justified it, noting that it is the most plausible way to close the financial inclusion gap. A negligible number of the country’s population has bank accounts.

The service dubbed M-Gurush (M for mobile and Gurush for money in Arabic) went live on July 12 in all 32 states of South Sudan, signaling an initiative to copy Kenya’s regional peers, from Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, where mobile money has operated for years, facilitating payment systems.

Years of conflict, in addition to raging poverty levels in the country where 51% of South Sudanese 10.6 million live below the poverty line, have hampered efforts to launch mobile money services.

Odd payment system

The mobile phone penetration rate is around 22% – or 2.3 million people – but several reports and analyzes by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) have consistently noted that there is a need mobile money in the youngest country in the world whose banking population is best described as “negligible”.

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“With a negligible rate of bank account ownership, mobile and banking payment solutions also have great potential once a reliable mobile infrastructure is built,” notes an IFC report.

Here’s why. While the rest of the mobile phone subscribers in East Africa made money transfers and used their mobile wallets to pay their bills, the airtime sellers in South Sudan had become de facto agents. payers; a mobile phone user would walk to a kiosk and trade their airtime minutes for cash, often at a discount of between 10 and 20 percent.

The IFC identified this strange payment system as early as 2012, but in a country without a robust financial or telecom infrastructure, distribution networks and regulations, coupled with years of war, a solution was far from materializing for South Sudan.

With the return of stability to the country, South Sudan’s telecoms operators are now ready to go, following in the footsteps of regional giants like Safaricom, MTN and Airtel who have been offering mobile money services for years and are now moved to more sophisticated e-commerce areas, including online. quick purchases and instant loans – Bridge payday.

‘Complete transformation’

M-Gurush is a partnership between Trinity Technologies Ltd and Zain Telecoms South Sudan, which provides the financial infrastructure.

For South Sudanese who had grown accustomed to trading their airtime for cash, Trinity Technologies vice president Joseph Arinaitwe said the mobile money platform would present “a complete transformation. Because it is simple, with a user-friendly and easy-to-use menu.

“The platform provides consumers with a strong product offering that encompasses payment for services, airtime top-up and money transfer services,” Arinaitwe said.

While other market operators – MTN South Sudan, Sudatel and Gemtel – remain low key on their mobile money plans, Zain with its M-Gurush brand is now leading the way.

For South Sudan’s most vulnerable, especially those displaced from their homes by internal conflict, M-Gurush will deliver real mobile wallet benefits away from commercial banks.

Registered customers can send amounts between South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) 1 to 100 ($ 0.768) for free, while the cost of sending between 501 pounds ($ 3.85) to 1000 pounds ($ 7.68 ) is 15 SSP ($ 0.115).

Overall, users can send and receive up to 100,000 SSPs ($ 768) per day and keep a balance of 200,000 SSP ($ 1,536) in their mobile wallet.

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