Orange Group and MTN Group on Thursday announced a joint venture, Mowali (mobile wallet interoperability), to enable interoperable payments across the continent.

In a joint statement released by two of Africa’s largest mobile operators and mobile money providers, Mowali will bring together over 100 million mobile money accounts and mobile money operations in 22 of sub-Saharan Africa’s 46 markets.

Stéphane Richard, Chairman & CEO of Orange, said, "by providing full interoperability between platforms, Mowali will provide an important step forward that will allow mobile money to become a universal means of payment in Africa. Increasing financial inclusion through the use of digital technology is an essential element in furthering the economic development of Africa, particularly for more isolated communities. This solution embodies Orange's ambition to be a leading player in the digital transformation of the continent. By joining forces with another of Africa’s market leaders, MTN, we aim to accelerate the pace of this transformation in a way that will change the lives of our customers by providing them with simpler, safer and more advantageous services.“

“One of MTN’s goals is to accelerate the penetration of mobile financial service in Africa, Mowali is one such vehicle that will help us achieve that objective. Furthermore, co-operation and partnerships that help us accelerate the pace of development and overcome some of the scale, scope and complexity of challenges that society faces are key. This partnership with Orange is, therefore, an important step in helping us play a meaningful role in supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals related to eliminating extreme poverty and enhancing socio-economic development in the markets we operate in and beyond. Thus giving our customers access to a bright, digital future,” said Rob Shuter, Group President and CEO of MTN.

What is Mowali?

Mowali (mobile money interoperability) is pan-African digital payment infrastructure set up to send money between mobile money accounts issued by any mobile money provider, in real time and at low cost. The objective of Mowali is to increase the usage of mobile money by consumers and merchants.

According to the statement, Mowali will enable interoperability between digital financial service providers beyond MTN and Orange operations and markets, to support the existing 338 million mobile money accounts in Africa.

It will “connects financial service providers and customers in one inclusive network. It functions as an industry utility, open to any mobile money provider in Africa, including banks, money transfer operators and other financial service providers.”