The Caribbean is virgin territory for mobile money — Wehby

BY AVIA COLLINDER Business reporter

Friday, March 24, 2017

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With the Caribbean having low levels of penetration for mobile money products, GraceKennedy Money Services Ltd (GKMS) is still mulling over the next market it will choose to launch its digital currency product, GK MPay.

The company is not ruling out countries in the Latin American region. Group CEO Don Wehby told the
Caribbean Business Report. "GK is open to every and all markets where business opportunities exist."

GKMS is currently operating in 10 other Caribbean markets. The digital money product was launched in February of this year. It permits the transfer of cash, remittances and bill payment, and is one of three such products which have been rolled out locally.

The others are CONEC, launched by the Jamaica Cooperative Credit Union League, and Quisk, which is used by the National Commercial Bank.

According to Michelle Allen, chief executive officer of GKMS, the subsidiary is currently examining which market will be the best fit to roll out GK MPay next.

The company is targeting a buildout of bill payment services via the digital currency product, a model also being followed in the region.

In its publication The Mobile Economy Latin America and the Caribbean 2016, GSMA Intelligence says that mobile money is used not just for remittances, but is also used by institutions and organisations to digitise their client payments.

Another characteristic of mobile money in Latin America and the Caribbean, it adds, is that average customer activity rates are higher than in other regions like sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

GSMA indicates that there are 37 live mobile money services across 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

GSMA, the association of mobile network operators, in its 2016 review of the digital economy said that as of December 2015, there were 17.3 million registered mobile money accounts in the region.

Both El Salvador and Honduras feature in the top 20 markets globally for mobile money account penetration amongst the adult population.

GSMA said that the shift of consumer engagement in Latin America to mobile devices is driving significant growth in mobile commerce and mobile advertising.

Meanwhile, in their publication "Mobile money — the next wave of growth," Ernst & Young says the number of mobile payment users, which formed only seven per cent of mobile phone subscribers worldwide in 2013, was expected to rise to 450 million by 2017.

Wehby stated, "The mobile wallet concept is fairly new in the Jamaican and Caribbean markets, so the penetration level is quite low at this time.

"However, we expect that over time this will change, and the mobile wallet will become the way of the future; especially after customers get exposed to the myriad of services we offer: from paying over 50 bills, including all major utilities; ability to send money to any other phone user, whether they have the service or not; collect Western Union remittances; top up any pre-paid mobile phone, and pay for goods and services."

Total digital commerce in Latin America is forecast to double from its 2015 level to reach US$80 billion by 2020, with Brazil accounting for just below 40 per cent of this.

The majority of countries now have two or more live services, while several markets now have three. Three mobile money deployments in Latin America have more than one million active customers, GSMA said.

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