Money transfer operator Western Union is teaming with Orascom Telecom to introduce mobile remittance services for the unbanked in select markets in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Orascom Telecom, which was established in 1998, operates six mobile networks with a combined total of 77 million subscribers, including Djezzy in Algeria, Mobilink in Pakistan, Mobinil in Egypt, Tunisiana in Tunisia, Banglalink in Bangladesh, and Telecel Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe. In addition, in early 2008, Orascom Telecom acquired a license in North Korea to operate mobile services.
"Orascom Telecom mobile networks are in areas with high populations of people who have limited access to financial services," says Naguib Sawiris, Orascom Telecom chairman and CEO. "We believe this alliance, supported by our current mobile subscribers throughout the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, presents an effortless method to bring financial services to many of the world's families for the first time."
Western Union currently operates primarily through an agent network with more than 355,000 locations in over 200 countries and territories. The firm's mobile money transfer service is currently available from select agent locations in the United States, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Europe to Globe Telecom and Smart Communications subscribers in the Philippines.
Once connected to Western Union's processing hub, mobile operators use their own "mobile wallet" software to enable person-to-person money transfers over Western Union's global remittance network.
The agreement with Orascom Telecom is part of the pilot programme of Western Union and the GSM Association, a global trade association representing over 750 GSM mobile phone operators, to facilitate the development of cross-border mobile money transfer services.
Several of the countries where Orascom Telecom operates are among the top receivers of remittances in the world, says Western Union. For example, according to the World Bank, Bangladesh received US$6.6 billion in remittances in 2007; Pakistan received US$6.1 billion, and Egypt received US$5.9 billion.