Middle East and African mobile telecommunications provider Zain is partnering with Western Union to offer customers of its Zap m-banking service the option of receiving cross-border money transfers to their handsets.
Zap enables Zain customers to interact with bank accounts, top-up or transfer airtime, and move money to businesses, friends and family. The service also allows customers to pay bills such as electricity, and can even be used to settle grocery bills in the supermarket.
The service has been live in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda for several months, with plans for an expansion into 22 markets.
Zain is now teaming with Western Union to let Zap customers receive money transfers sent from Western Union agent locations directly to their mobile phone.
Customers who receive funds in their mobile wallets will be able to pay bills, buy airtime or cash out through the service at more than 12,000 Zap agent locations in East Africa. The service will be introduced in "select countries" when regulators give the go-ahead.
Zain says the Western Union tie-up will help the Zap service tap into the massive remittance market. The firm cites figures from the World Bank which suggest Sub-Saharan Africa alone received around $10.8 billion in remittances in 2007.
Saad Al Barrak, Zain Group, CEO, says: "We understand the vital role remittances play in sustaining families separated from the main breadwinner, and this service will add a measure of reassurance to those who rely on financial support from abroad."
Gail Galuppo, chief marketing officer, Western Union, adds: "The ability to move money with a mobile phone is changing the landscape of financial services. We look forward to connecting Western Union's global network with the Zap platform to extend services throughout Africa."