Airtel Ghana says more than GHC4million (40 billion old cedis) circulates on its award-winning Airtel Money platform currently.

The company has over 3 million subscribers, out of which about 900,000 are Airtel Money customers, and an average of about 18,000 of them do mobile money transactions every day.

The platform has seven partner banks, several merchants like restaurants, online and offline shops, utility and service companies as well as some schools which take payments with Airtel Money.

Meanwhile, individual customers also use the service for airtime purchase and for direct money transfers from peer to peer (friends and family).

Head of Mobile Commerce at Airtel Ghana, Martison Obeng-Agyei told Adom News in an exclusive interview that as a result of transactions within all those facets of the Airtel Money platform, money circulating on the platform at any point in time is over GHC4million Ghana cedis currently.

He said top among the uses of Airtel Money are airtime purchase, followed by peer to peer money transfers, and payment of utility and service bills. But a few more customers also use it for shopping both online and in some partner shops, payment for food in partner restaurants, and for bank transactions.

He said every Airtel SIM card is already configured to do Airtel Money but the owner needs to activate it, adding that those who activate Airtel Money and use their mobile wallet to purchase airtime on Airtel get 100% bonus airtime any time they buy airtime. But the bonus airtime is for calls to only Airtel numbers.

“Airtel money is the only one of three mobile money platforms in the country (MTN Mobile Money and Tigo Cash) that links customers’ mobile money wallet to their bank accounts, and allows customers to make cash withdrawals from the mobile wallet at the ATMs of the respective partner banks,” he said.

He noted that the platform also allows users to transfer money from their mobile wallet into their bank accounts, and vice-a-versa; and also allows users to even transfer money from one bank account to another via the mobile wallet so long as the banks involved are among the seven partner banks.

The partner banks are ECOBANK, STANCHART, UT Bank, Zenith Bank, GT Bank, UBA, and Unibank.

“All you do is to pay the money to your bank and ask them to put it into your mobile wallet then you transfer it to the other account in their other bank,” he said.

He added that “all our seven partner banks together have 228 branches, so once you have an account with any one of them and you have also activated Airtel Money you automatically have access to all 228 bank branches across the country where you can do banking transactions.”

Martison Obeng-Agyei said and users who have accounts with any of the seven banks could also check their banks accounts and get mini bank statements via their phone for free.

Airtel Money is also one of two mobile money platforms that allows Airtel customers to transfer money to persons on other networks; the other one being Tigo Cash.

Martison Obeng-Agyei noted that already Airtel Money users are able to pay water, electricity and DSTV bills with their mobile wallets from the comfort of their homes and offices, and some schools also accept Airtel Money for payment of fees.

Some schools, he said, have assigned particular officials as Airtel Money agents who also receive money from parents on behalf of students and the students get to collect cash from the agents.

“Parents all over the country are sending their wards fees via Airtel Money to the schools and it is working – it is taking away the risk and high cost of sending physical cash via public transport because this is safe, secure and convenient, and each transaction cost only 50Gp no matter how much you send,” he said.

He said Airtel customers using Airtel Money could also shop at Melcom, Koala and Max Mart and pay with their mobile wallet, and they could also go eat at some restaurants and pay with Airtel Money.

Martison Obeng-Agyei noted that Airtel’s target is to help Ghana achieve the cashless or at least a cash-lite economy target, where Ghanaians could do everyday transactions like paying for ‘trotro’ or taxi, buying kenkey, waste and even sachet water with Airtel Money instead of with cash.

“We are working on bringing Ghana to the point where all food sellers and passenger transport drivers would accept Mobile Money payments – it is not going to be just Airtel Money because many people also use other networks but we want to lead the way for the others to follow,” he said.

Martison Obeng-Agyei acknowledged the difficulties people have in using mobile money because it is generally SMS-based, saying that Airtel is working on more convenient and user-friendly ways of accessing Airtel Money without necessarily having to type out messages.

He believes over time Mobile Money would catch on in Ghana like an ‘avalanche’, like it has in Kenya; but that would need huge government support in the area of public education to clear the lingering misconceptions about mobile money.

Martison Obeng-Agyei said the money needed for public education on mobile money is beyond any telecom operator so government needs to lead the way by consolidating the strengths of the individual telcos and topping it up to do a massive public education with the view to fast tracking Ghana’s march towards a cashless/cash-lite economy.