M-Pesa in European mobile money first

Romania has become the first European country to allow the receipt of international remittance transfers directly on a mobile phone.

The new capability has been rolled out through Vodafone’s M-Pesa service, via a tie-up with digital money transfer service WorldRemit. Vodafone users registered with M-Pesa – which has had a presence in Romania since 2014 – can now withdraw funds sent from abroad at more than 2,100 M-Pesa locations nationwide, or use the money directly from their mobile phone to pay utility bills, recharge Cartela Vodafone or buy goods at selected merchants.

An estimated 16.5 per cent of Romanians live and work overseas, according to the Overseas Development Institute, sending back €411 million in remittances every year. The World Bank also estimates that 40 per cent of Romania’s adult population is unbanked, indicating the market potential for mobile money.

“We are offering all Vodafone customers a new service that is secure and fast at a very competitive rate,” said Valentin Stefan, director of business development at Vodafone Romania. “International money transfer through Vodafone M-Pesa is the first mobile platform on the Romanian market that enables Romanians to receive money from other European countries, US and Canada, with immediate and 24/7 access to funds.”

M-Pesa initially launched in Kenya in 2007, and has spearheaded the growth of mobile money services across Africa. Explaining why such services have taken so long to arrive in Europe, Alix Murphy, senior mobile analyst at WorldRemit, said: “Mobile Money has taken its time in coming to Europe, mainly due to regulatory restrictions preventing non-bank entities like telecoms operators from providing deposit-taking services and a lack of incentive among financial institutions to serve low-value customers. For the millions of Romanians working abroad and sending money home, our partnership with Vodafone M-Pesa sets a new standard: no more extortionate fees and no more waiting in line at money transfer agents for either them or their families.”

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