More West Africans will now be able to transfer and receive money through their mobile phones following the launch of an international money transfer service by Orange, known formerly as France Telecom.
Called Orange Money International Transfer, the service will operate in Mali, Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire. Orange said about €200 million (US$261.4 million) move among the countries in the form of money transfers every year.
Though Orange has a presence in 20 African countries, the telco had more than 15 million combined subscribers in Mali, Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire as of 2011, according to its annual report.
"These countries share common borders, culture and currency. As a consequence, money transfers are extremely common between them and the amount that is transferred every year is huge," said Orange spokesman Mylène Blin via email. "Therefore, the need for a convenient transfer service was greater in this area. Besides, Orange Money services are already quite well-known and successful in these countries. Côte d'Ivoire was the very first country to launch Orange Money at the end of 2008, Senegal and Mali followed in 2010."
Blin said Orange collaborates with banks for all the Orange Money services in each country and will rely on those local partnerships for the international transfer service.
Local money transfer services up to now have been criticized for bureaucratic procedures.
In May, Orange stated that its revenue increased by 3.3 percent, led by its operations in Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Guinea and Niger. This is likely to be upped by the introduction of the transfer service, considering the trading activity that occurs in the target markets. A common currency, the CFA franc, is used in all eight French-speaking West African countries. This will enhance easier calculation across the countries without the need for an exchange at differing rates.
Since the new service will be available to non-Orange users, it will be exposed to a combined population of well over 40 million.