The launch of Splash, a text-message-based mobile money service, makes Sierra Leone the latest African country to deploy a mobile payment system. The launch of Splash, a text-message-based mobile money service, makes Sierra Leone the latest African country to deploy a mobile payment system. The service, launched earlier this month in Freetown, will be provided through a partnership among local bank Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) and the two telecom companies that have the widest reach in the country — Zain and Africell, which recently acquired Tigo.
Splash is similar to services successfully deployed in eastern and southern Africa that enable wide access to basic financial services, according to Sheka Forna, a Splash director.
Like Safaricom’s M-Pesa service in Kenya and Ghana-based Africa Xpress, the Splash service is based on MoreMagic Solutions’ MWallet technology and designed for African markets, aiming at the “unbanked.”
Its introduction formalized a remittance system that was initially practiced by some telecenter operators in remote areas. These operators exchange call-card air time from people in the city for cash in remote areas.
Splash customers transfer money by completing a free registration, purchasing a “SplashCash” card and sending the card’s code by text to any number on the accredited networks. The recipient then exchanges the SplashCash for cash at any agent location.
Demonstrating how Splash works during the Freetown launch, another Splash director, Ben Farren, said customers can go to the nearest Splash agent, fill in a form, and Splash will then send a text message containing a PIN and secret word.
He cautioned users to memorize these secret words and delete the text from their mobile phones.
With close to 2 million phone users in the country, this mobile money system — which according to Forna does not require opening a bank account — is likely to be embraced by many.
The immediate benefit to users is the opportunity to send funds to multiple collection points. Though Splash plans to open more locations throughout Sierra Leone before the end of the year, agents comprising mainly of major telco distribution partners including Skaitel and Balani & Sons are concentrated in Freetown and two other major cities, Bo and Makeni, which are 250 miles and 115 miles from the capital, respectively.