, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 12 – Telecommunications giant Zain has expanded its Zap money transfer service to the West African nations of Niger and Sierra Leone with a full commercial pilot in Malawi.
The expansion brings to six the number of countries using the service after it was launched in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in 2009.
Zain Group Chief Executive Dr Saad Al Barrak said the expansion would provide customers with increased security and flexibility, reducing the need to carry cash and ensure payments between friends and family remain secure.
“We are proud to play a role in improving people’s lives by giving 150 million people access to effective and efficient financial services,” he said.
Dr Al Barrak said it would make credit accessible to millions of people locked out from formal alternatives, by giving them access to advanced financial services through their mobile phones. With this expansion, Zain is now the biggest mobile commerce operator in the world in terms of geographic coverage, enabled customers and service functionalities.
Zap is also part of Zain’s ‘One Network’ platform, allowing customers to benefit from all of the Zap features when travelling to all Zain-operating countries.
“The platform allows travelling customers to move across geographic borders without roaming surcharges, make calls/SMS at local rates, and receive incoming calls free as well as recharge their mobile phones with locally purchased top up cards,” Dr Al Barrak said.
Zain has also partnered with several international banks (EcoBank in Niger, Zenith Bank in Sierra Leon and the National Bank of Malawi) allowing customers to send and receive money to their bank accounts, withdraw cash or pay for goods and services.
The expansion is expected to drive the provider’s subscription numbers up from the current 71.8 million active subscribers across Africa and the Middle East.
Zain plans to roll out Mobile Commerce services in all its mobile operations on both continents in the future, subject to regulatory approvals.