GSMA releases API definition for mobile money providers
Builds on learning from market leading mobile money services
Visa Developer Program rolls out mVisa with OEM Micromax
Udio mobile app users across India, supported by processor Transerv and RDL Bank
Equity Bank in Kenya opens APIs to developers
Sources: GSMA; PYMNTS; techweez
Summary: GSMA is providing tools to help mobile money operators deliver API programs in developing markets. Visa and Banks are also offering APIs to their platforms, highlighting the competitive nature of payments and the confidence in API economy.
Point of View
Created to include customers with feature phones, mobile money payment solutions are not often thought of as technically advanced. However, a number of the leading providers’ systems are built on modern technology, unencumbered by inflexible legacy platforms, and already offer APIs for third party developers. Market leaders Safaricom M-PESA API in Kenya and Tigo for Developers in Tanzania have had API programs from 2015.
As a member driven organisation with a remit to promote best practice for mobile money, GSMA’s API initiative aims to extend the knowledge and skills needed to invest in, establish and run an API and developer program. This is likely to be particularly useful for principally domestic operators, without the backing of a global mobile network operator.
APIs are becoming widely recognised as part of the future of retail banking, as regulation and opportunity drives banks to provide the account as a platform for services. Visa has been promoting its mVisa brand in Asian markets and in November 2016 announced its first significant deployment through the Visa Developer Program with the integration of Micromax’s Udio wallet. Launched with its own app in 2015, mVisa is Visa’s platform for mobile online and offline merchant payment and P2P transfer from and to linked Visa prepaid, debit or credit cards. Starting in India, mVisa is expanding into African markets through its relationship with Ecobank.
The Ecobank relationship illustrates that the banking sector in developing markets is fully aware that mobile is the key consumer device, and mobile money a key competitor for payment accounts. Competition breeds innovation, and Equity bank in Kenya has responded to M-PESA’s growth by testing various initiatives, such as becoming a virtual network operator (MVNO) themselves. API access to platform functionality is the latest in the series. Gaining traction with the developer community will be its first test.
The leading mobile money providers understand the benefit of APIs. Unbundling allows the platform to expand service through new payment scenarios and more readily include additional third party services. By promoting industry best practice and providing support tools, GSMA is likely to help expand the number of platforms offering APIs, as the skills required become more widely distributed.
The push into APIs that is recognised at industry level for mobile money providers, has generated a competitive response from the international payment networks and the banking sector. As smart phones become more widely used in these markets, mobile service providers in developing markets are moving quickly into the API economy.