MTN to roll out ‘WeChat of Africa’

MTN Group has declared it will introduce an instant messaging (IM) service like to China’s WeChat and Facebook’s WhatsApp as it looks forward to boost revenue from digital services and mobile money.

With the IM platform, which will be part of the group’s mobile money initiatives, MTN wants to shape what group CEO Rob Shuter calls the “WeChat of Africa”. WeChat, established by Naspers affiliate Tencent, is by far the largest IM app in China and provides an array of in-app services from chat to payments.

The app will be accessible in MTN markets in West Africa first for a “beta-testing” phase. The plan is to make it available to all the countries in which it operates, including South Africa. An important differentiator will be the facility for users to exchange messages who don’t have a data plan through interoperability with SMS.

At the same time, MTN will extend its mobile money offering from 14 to 18 markets, including South Africa. Though the group previously rolled out mobile money in South Africa only to later remove the service, Shuter declared the group plans to take a different method this time.

Shuter concluded, “We are extending our Bright strategy to build MTN into a digital operator with a major focus on the fintech, digital, enterprise and wholesale business areas. Key focus areas for 2019 are the launch of our own music streaming and instant messaging applications and extending MTN mobile money from 14 to 18 countries through launches in South Africa, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Sudan.”