At the maiden MTN Bright Media Awards, we made two entries, out of which one won two awards – Online category and Overall Best Journalist of the Year. Below is the other article we submitted. It tells the story of three generations of Mobile Money Agents and how they have benefited from MTN over the years. It is captures a few suggestions the made for improved benefits from MTN.
In his bid to express how inadequate his praises to God was, Nigerian gospel artiste, Tim Jefferies sung “…if I have ten thousand tongues, it still won’t be enough…”. That is exactly how one feels trying to tell the story of how MTN Ghana has brightened lives over the last 25 years in just a thousand words. This is a story that requires many books to tell. But, thankfully, it has several angles, and each one is rich enough to represent the whole.
The story can, for instance, be told of how the over US$15-million worth MTN Corporate Social Investment projects mainly in education, health and economic empowerment have brightened the lives of about four million Ghanaians; how MTN’s trailblazing initiative in 2G, 3G, 4G, mobile money (MoMo) and other industry innovations have impacted the lives of its 25 million plus customers, businesses and the economy as a whole; and how MTN MoMo, for instance, has created the enabling environment for the huge financial technology (FinTech) ecosystem in the country today, which now provides thousands of jobs.
Currently, MTN is pursuing a strategy dubbed Agenda 2025, geared towards making it a Platform Player. Ambition 2025 is anchored on five pillars, one of which is to be a Network as a Service (NaaS). In essence, this means MTN will go beyond being a service provider to become a platform where anyone can create and render various services to their own set of clients outside of MTN.
Even though MTN Ghana is targeting 2025 for its NaaS status, it would appear it started playing that role long before now, particularly in the area of MoMo merchant network in Ghana. Currently the industry counts about 400,000 MoMo merchants. It all begun with MTN in 2009. Now, the merchant network built by MTN, has become a resource for the other MoMo players to also gain some penetration. Clearly, that is MTN offering MoMo Merchant Network as a Service (MMNaaS) for free.
Speaking of MoMo merchants, often when they come into the news, it is about one complaint or the other against telcos. But the merchants, outside of their many complaints, also have their own stories to tell about how MTN has brightened their lives.
Evans PK Otumfuo is the CEO of PK Smart Cash Limited at Koforidua, and has been in the MoMo business for eight years. He said currently, about 90 per cent of their earnings from MoMo is from MTN, adding that in the early days, he used to make an average of GHC2,000 a month as profit. This was corroborated by his senior colleague pioneer merchant, George Agyare of Flash Zone Ventures at La in Accra.
According to Otumfuo, like many of his other colleagues, his MoMo earnings helped him to buy land, pay for his wards’ education and to cater for his family.
“I have also been able to provide jobs for other people because my involvement with MTN MoMo has provided me with deeper understanding of business operations and the use of technology to advance my business. I leveraged on the MoMo business to diversify into other businesses like SIM activation, airtime sales, and grocery shop business to give my clients a one-stop-shop experience,” he said.
Otumfuo also recalled the several rewards merchants have received from MTN over the years, such as vehicles, digital devices, trips abroad and other things that have helped to improve their lives and businesses.
MoMo paid for my wedding and new house
George Agyare had a very interesting story about how MTN has brightened his life. He said “the money I raised from MoMo and credit transfer in particular, helped me pay for my wedding and to also build my own house.”
According to him, he still depends on his earnings from MoMo as a source of reinvestment into his business, and on profits from credit transfer and other related businesses to take care of his family.
He however recalled that the benefits of the good old days have been partially depleted due to the proliferation of agents across the country.
“I used to get over 100 customers in a day, but today it takes the grace of God to even get 50 customers in a day,” he stated.
I would have stopped MoMo but for MTN
But the latter-day agents, like Dorothy Mamphey-Otibo of Dotferd Trading Enterprise in Koforidua, seem relatively content with the GHC250 to GHC300 monthly earnings from MTN MoMo. She compared that to the GHC10 she earns from the other MoMo platforms and said “MTN is far better”.
Dorothy is a law lecturer who started MoMo business just four years ago. She has been able to build a banking agency and electronic appliance retail business on the back of her MoMo business and now she is leveraging MoMo to make good sales in her other businesses.
“For me it has been good – if not for MTN I would have stopped by now – I have employed four people and I pay their SSNIT contributions and also give them annual bonuses and other packages on festive occasions.” she said. “I have even put two of them into the university.”
But they do have some suggestions for MTN. Otumfuo thinks, just as MTN has micro-loan schemes such as QwickLoan, XpressLoan and AhomkaLoan for subscribers, they should have similar ones for merchants because “the cost of capital from the financial institutions is too high.”
Agyare is not happy that “MTN places more value on subscribers than merchants”, in that, when a subscriber makes a complaint, MTN is quick to block the merchant’s wallet before hearing the merchant. He thinks, in such instances, MTN needs to engage extensively before taking any action.
Dorothy also wants so see some improvement in their commissions, which according to her, has been GHS0.05 on every GHC1 since day one. She explained that now that there are almost 400,000 merchants, it has become difficult to even make GHC500 a month, so MTN should compensate for that with an upwards adjustment in the commissions.
This is one of those stories you conclude at some point, not because you are out of words, but just because you have to.