The 12 Pays of Xmas!

~6 min read

With only a few weeks left of 2015, and before we publish our annual score card for mobile finance and commerce (next week), it's time to take a look back at what pushed Mondato Insight's subscribers' mobile payment buttons, as we bring you The Twelve Pays of Xmas!


Sing along - you know you want to!



For the First Pay of Christmas, South Korea sent to me,


Samsung Pay with MST!


The most popular Insight of the year, by a significant margin, was our write-up of the launch of Samsung’s attempt to see Apple’s NFC play, and raise them Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST). MST is the technology from LoopPay that Samsung Pay utilizes to be usable on almost any mag-stripe or NFC-equipped POS. As we noted at the time, this gives Samsung Pay the potential to be habit-forming, which Apple Pay is clearly still very far from being.


InfoScout’s recent Black Friday numbers showed only 2.7% of potential Apple Pay transactions actually used the mobile payment system, versus 2% for equivalent Android phones. InfoScout included Galaxy S5 phones among their sample, which can run Android Pay but not Samsung Pay. Mondato Insight reached out to InfoScout for Galaxy S6 (Samsung Pay) numbers so we could compare like with like between Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, but unfortunately they were not forthcoming when we “went to print”. If Samsung Pay’s ubiquity and potential to become habit forming are living up to their promise, then we would expect to see numbers north of 2.7%. We will, for certain, learn more in 2016!


For the Second Pay of Christmas, Latin America sent to me,


Conditional Cash Transfers!


Mondato Insight upped its coverage of Latin America in 2015, and in addition to our piece on Colombia’s attempts to build a digital payments ecosystem, the second part of our double-header on Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) more broadly was the second most popular piece of the year. It is easy to see why: LAC’s inequalities present moderate levels of the unbanked, alongside a relatively healthy and liquid banking sector catering to a growing middle class. This has meant that in many countries across the region mobile has quickly become a popular method of the delivery of benefits such as conditional cash transfers, while mobile commerce has flourished, though still with lots of room to grow. Turbulent political and economic winds have pushed the pendulum away from the left and towards the right in a number of major countries in the region. Time will tell what this means for mobile finance and commerce, but LAC certainly deserves closer attention.


For the Third Pay of Christmas, West Africa sent to me,


E-Money Regulations!


In 2008, Ghana took an unusual path in terms of branchless banking and mobile money regulation, though it was not what would be called an unqualified success. In March, Mondato Insight took a look at what had gone wrong in the Black Star nation, a little ahead of the announcement by the Bank of Ghana in the summer of a complete overhaul of the regulatory framework for mobile money. Mondato’s own projections concluded that mobile financial service penetration in Ghana rising to be on a par with that of Tanzania could bring about an almost tenfold increase in mobile transactions in the country, reaching almost US$60 billion. This is a topic we will be sure to return to at some point in the future in light of the new laws.


For the Fourth Pay of Christmas, the World Bank sent to me,


Global Findex ‘14


Everyone is hungry for data these days, so the second round of the World Bank’s Global Findex, understandably, excited our readers and won fourth spot for Mondato Insight’s dive into the gold standard benchmark for data on financial inclusion, including for the first time mobile money account ownership. One of the takeaways from the Findex figures, however, was that progress was being made in other areas


On the Fifth Pay of Christmas, GSMA gave to me,




The Barcelona behemoth of a conference is always one of the most popular Mondato Insights of the year, and this year was no different. From a mobile finance and commerce perspective, Samsung Pay and Android Pay were the center of attention, while Google’s plans to launch an MVNO and Facebook’s cozying up to MNOs raised a few eyebrows. The narrowing of the margins between MNOs and other tech players picked up speed and is definitely a space to watch in 2016.


For the Sixth Pay of Christmas, Uber sent to me,


Apptivists complaining!


It is almost impossible to listen to a conversation about the mobile finance and commerce economy without hearing mention of one or both of "disruption" and "Uber", the latter very often used as a simile (e.g. "It's like the Uber of marmoset de-lousing!") As Mondato Insight noted just a few weeks ago, Uber may not actually be disruptive at all. Moreover, as we drew attention to in this popular piece from September, Uber and some of the other big name Silicon Valley "sharing economy" players are able to mobilize armies of citizen-lobbyists to push back against regulation the companies dislike. One of the ironies of this situation is that one of the largest companies in the world by value is able to shelter behind a veneer of a populist battle against "vested interests". The story of the unwinding of local and national government's capacity to regulate industries, and the consequences that will flow from that, has yet to be acted out to its conclusion. More will surely be revealed in the 12 months to come.


For the Seventh Pay of Christmas, Somalia sent to me,


Regulators regulating!


Somalia has managed to raise a relatively strong mobile money ecosystem out of the ashes of its civil war and crashed economy, but the ongoing existence of Islamic extremists in the country has meant caused continued troubles for its significant diaspora, in particular in the United States, and their ability to send critical money remittances back home. International mobile money remittances are not yet an option for the country, despite the widespread use of mobile wallets within the country, because banks are scared of running into regulatory problems as a result of third party partners' and agents' effectiveness in implementing efforts to Counter the Financing of Terrorism (CFT). Ironically, Islamists have threatened MNOs from facilitating international remittances because it will reduce their ability to extort. Here is a real pain point for Somalis that mobile money has the potential to ameliorate, but regulation and fear of prosecution, as well as vested interests, have created a potent brew that benefits no-one, except perhaps the terrorists.


For the Eighth Pay of Christmas, merchants gave to me,


No reason to use NFC!


Mobile payments have spluttered their way through 2015, in part because merchants in the USA greeted the liability shift and switch to EMV-chipped cards with a giant shrug of their shoulders. The result is a full year since the launch of Apple Pay, less than 3% of consumers who are able to use it do so even where they can, in part because they are so used to not using it. If there is not a significant change on this front, it is going to be a long, long path to normalcy for mobile payments.


For the Ninth Pay of Christmas, India sent to me,


225 million smartphone owners phoning!


When discussing anything to do with India, the numbers are always jaw-dropping. In 2015 Mondato Insight took a deep dive into MFC in the sub-continent, the second part of which ended up sliding into ninth place on our Twelve Pays of Xmas. Another stat to mull over while chewing your turkey: B2B transactions in India are worth an estimated US$2.3 trillion. As one of our informants put it, you only need to serve a very small slice of that very big pie in order to grasp a great MFC business opportunity.


For the Tenth Pay of Christmas, West Africa sent to me,


Emergency workers working!


The increasingly widely recognised role of mobile money salary payments in helping defeat Ebola in West Africa, Sierra Leone in particular, slipped into the tenth spot. Emergency workers getting paid the right amount on time every time was a significant factor in the management and eradication of the Ebola virus, and surely marks a significant moment in mobile money's evolution and usage.


For the Eleventh Pay of Christmas, Silicon Valley sent to me,


Innovators innovating!


Finovate Fall in NYC was all about the next generation of mobile wallets: interactivity and a range of uses built in that extend far beyond simply holding a balance. The next time Samuel L. Jackson asks, "What's in your wallet?", he may regret having to wait for you to get to the end of your answer. 


For the Twelfth Pay of Christmas, Safaricom sent to me,


Open APIs opening!


And last, but by no means least, finishing off the Mondato Insight Twelve Pays of Xmas is perhaps the most important of them all: open APIs. Safaricom (sort of) opened up its APIs to third parties earlier this year, and it is a trend that must continue to help mobile wallets and mobile money flourish. A rising tide can lift all boats, but everybody has got to be navigating with the same maps!


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