Operating in nearly forty African countries, MFS Africa prides itself on its compliance across diverse mobile regulatory environments.
Previously the company partnered with mobile network operators to adhere to country-specific licensing and regulatory requirements.
But shifts in regulations and MFS Africa's business model means the company must increasingly ensure its own compliance.
“In recent times, there has been a move towards asking technological providers like ourselves to become regulated,” says Funmi Dele-Giwa, director of MFS Africa's Legal and Regulatory Affairs division. “We have taken a strategic decision to get ourselves licensed in many of these countries, as well.”
Along with connecting mobile money operators, MFS Africa also offers direct payment services to large corporations like Canal+ to collect subscriptions within a particular African country.
“Mobile payments are considered a regulated activity in many countries. For us to provide a service like that, we need to apply for a licence,” says Dele-Giwa.
Keeping up with various regulatory frameworks and changes across so many territories can be challenging. But MFS Africa's Legal and Regulatory Affairs division is committed to realising the company's vision of making mobile money payments between countries as easy as making a phone call.
Dele-Giwa describes the legal team as innovative and goal-oriented. “I know a lot of people don't think that lawyers are creative, but I think we are. We can be very creative, and we are very passionate about solving problems,” says Dele-Giwa.
Africa is leading the way when it comes to mobile money. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 43% of new mobile money accounts in the world in 2020, according to the latest GSMA Mobile Money report.
While mobile money operators and the technology undergirding it rapidly grows, regulators must play catch up.
Authorities prefer to see money coming into their countries and try to control how it leaves. But limiting the channels by which money can be transferred stifles growth and competition, says Dele-Giwa.
She says the ideal regulatory framework for the growing fintech industry would make payments easier.
“One of the key areas that we see that need improvement is the KYC [Know Your Customer] requirements. These are required forms ID, proof of address, and details needed to process payments.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic, many regulators opted to forgo the usual stringent requirements for KYC. Dele-Giwa says more of this kind of flexibility would allow the industry to flourish.
But the future looks bright for mobile money in Africa. “Clearly, there's growth in the sector and a need for the service that we provide,” says Dele-Giwa. “We're growing at such speed, and that's an amazing factor in itself.”