Lonestar Cell MTN (MTN-Liberia) and the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) through a partnership agreement has officially launched a mobile money program to provide linkage between the two entities and to reach out to their many customers using existing technology at the lowest shared cost.
John B. S. Davies, III, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of LBDI, said the bank wants to tap into and connect with Lonestar Cell MTN, describing it as ‘the most progressive medium of money transfer,’ which is trade-based in the Liberian economy on a day-to-day basis.
“I am pleased to inform you that Lonestar Cell MTN [has] tapped into 23 locations across Liberia. Today you also tapped into 234,000 additional customers and tapped into an unlimited supply of liquidity,” Davies said. “Again, you tapped into a brand that has been a symbol of progress and pragmatism as it relates to banking and access to finance in Liberia.”
He said LBDI, which just got on board, remains Lonestar Cell MTN’s most strategic partner in the area of retail banking and digital finance.
Mr. Davies lauded Atty. Massa M. Dennis (Head of MFS LoneStar Cell MTN) and Lonestar Cell MTN in general for being persistent in ensuring that the bank is enlisted as a partner.
Mr. Davies said five years ago, the Liberia Bankers Association (LBA) was informed about the mobile money program by Lonestar Cell MTN, but a review a year ago showed the progress of mobile money, which has exceeded over L$3 billion and more than US$30 million.
He, however, assured Lonestar Cell MTN of seeing something different with the new partnership.
Atty. Dennis, who spoke on behalf of Lonestar Cell MTN, said despite the long journey of six years, the launch was made possible by the shared vision of LBDI and their unwavering commitment to the realization of this vision.
“We share the vision of leading the way in driving the cashless economic agenda in Liberia and fostering the government agenda of financial inclusion-evidenced by Lonestar Cell MTN being the first mobile operator to launch mobile money and the LBDI being one of the most resilient and trusted financial institutions in Liberia,” Atty. Dennis said.
According to her, the partnership will enable mobile money subscribers and agents across Liberia to perform mobile money transactions such as cash-in and cash-out, bill payments at any LBDI branch. She said presently mobile money transactions have grown from a mere US$3 million to over US$25 million a month.
Atty. Dennis said 80 percent of this transaction value is from cash out and money transfers, so the company knows the potential is there. “Now we have to roll up our sleeves and get to work so that we don’t let these opportunities pass us by,” Atty. Dennis added.
Othello F. Sherman who gave the overview of the partnership said in 2014, LBDI entered into the agreement for the implementation of mobile money and has successfully deployed the pilot phase of the mobile money. Mr. Sherman said both institutions have agreed to collaborate to operate the mobile money business by providing mobile money products to the Liberian market.
He said LBDI’s partnership with Lonestar Cell MTN will create financial inclusion through the rollout of products capitalizing on the popularities of the mobile money platform.
“With the growth of mobile money across the country, the partnership offers an effective and wider channel for LBDI to fulfill its financial inclusion objective using existing technology at the lowest shared cost,” Mr. Sherman said.
According to him, the partnership will provide a linkage between LoneStar Cell MTN and LBDI in jointly generating revenues for both entities and dilute competition that could emerge, should LBDI or Lonestar Cell MTN act alone.
He said the partnership will also allow LBDI to optimize the returns from its large retail clientele base and also share in the liquidity stream provided by the mobile money platform.
“This partnership involves risk sharing. For LBDI and Lonestar Cell MTN, it provides a low cost and low-risk strategy in acquiring a new audience, especially the unbankable,” Mr. Sherman said. It would create a synergy between a Telco with the widest network and bank with the largest retail chain network in Liberia, he said.
According to him, Lonestar Cell MTN with its wide network allows LBDI to exploit its existing client base and, in return, Lonestar Cell MTN will be able to offer banking products to existing customers.
Mr. Sherman said the partnership allows the two entities to reach the unbanked as well as allowing mobile money subscribers with LBDI accounts to transfer cash between the two sub-channels.
“The integration makes it seamless for people to use mobile money, bank accounts or both, and makes it easier for LBDI to reach a larger market, particularly in rural areas which are financially unserved,” he said.