Mobile Money Interoperability and Mobile Money Users: Who Stands to Benefit?

In June 2014, Tanzania’s Tigo, Airtel and Zantel announced an agreement to launch mobile money interoperability. Last week, interoperable services went live, although, thus far, only between Tigo and Airtel: Subscribers of the two mobile money networks can now send and receive money between their mobile money wallets (

Among the conversation on how this move is going to affect a market that is already more competitive than any other mobile money market in Africa, it is interesting to once again listen to the “voices” of mobile money users to understand who might potentially benefit from the new arrangement.

Based on the findings from the first national survey for the Financial Inclusion Insights (FII) program with 2,997 Tanzanian adults (15+),[1] 48 percent of the Tanzanian adult population uses mobile money services: 44 percent have their own account and 4 percent use somebody else’s account, including that of a mobile money agent.

Mobile money users in Tanzania expressed a clear need for provider interoperability. One in five mobile money users (20 percent) said they needed to either send money to another person on a different mobile money provider network or receive money from a person on a different provider network in the 90 days prior to the survey.

Interestingly, just a slim majority (53 percent) of mobile money users with a need for interoperability already use mobile money services for P2P transfers; the remaining 47 percent make transactions other than P2P transfers, mostly basic deposits and withdrawals as well as airtime top-ups. This might mean that there is a substantial group of current mobile money users (9 percent) with a clear “pain point”: They need to use mobile money for P2P transfers but cannot do so because of the lack of interoperability. These are likely the people who will clearly benefit from the new Tigo-Airtel-Zantel agreement.

Another group that stands to benefit from the agreement is a group of Tanzanian adults who use mobile money for business related transactions,[2] including paying suppliers and receiving payments from distributors and clients. Twenty-four percent of this group said they needed to send or receive money to or from people using a different mobile money provider in the 90 days prior to the survey. At least half suffered negative consequences, including late payment fees or disconnected services, because they were not able to make inter-provider transactions.

Finally, Ezy Pesa users[3] show the strongest need for interoperability among other provider users (Figure 1). This is not unexpected since Zantel’s Ezy Pesa currently has the smallest share of the mobile money user market mostly because the provider’s geographic coverage is very limited, serving Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam areas. The inclusion of Ezy Pesa users into a larger interoperable network of providers will help them benefit from P2P transfers, especially those engaged in domestic labor migration.


Figure 1. Reported need for interoperability among mobile money users, by different mobile money providers*

*Some of the mobile money users use more than one provider

Source: InterMedia FII tracker survey in Tanzania; November 2013 – March 2014; N=2,997.

Source: InterMedia FII tracker survey in Tanzania; November 2013 – March 2014; N=2,997.

InterMedia will be tracking Tanzanian mobile market changes in the second national survey that we launched in August 2014. Check our website for news and updates on financial inclusion in Tanzania as well as other countries in Africa and Asia. Or, for more information, contact me directly at