With HelloCash in widespread use, getting everyone access to banking is within reach.
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In the Somali Regional state of Ethiopia, a woman sets out to do her food shopping for the day. She needs cash before she heads to the market, but the nearest bank would be several days’ walk. Instead, she takes out her phone and texts a password and a request for money. A few minutes later, she meets a man with a mobile phone and receives cash from him — the withdrawal that she made on her phone. She heads off, ready to do her errands.
Welcome to the world of HelloCash mobile money banking
In Ethiopia, people don’t live near banks or have bank accounts. For a long time, that meant those people were locked out of the financial system — unable to straightforwardly send money, save it, buy things without cash, or get loans.But in the age of the mobile phone, it has become possible to access the key functions of a financial system without getting a formal bank account.
HelloCash is pretty simple. In a lot of ways, you can think of the apps that are widely used for mobile transactions in some African countries as equivalent to a send-your-friends-money app like Venmo in the US. But Venmo requires linking to a bank or a credit card, which means anyone who doesn’t have one of those is locked out.
With HelloCash mobile money accounts no formal bank account is required. To make a deposit or get cash from the app, mobile money systems use human agents, people who hang out at key locations throughout Ethiopia — including remote rural areas — with cash and a mobile phone. You can also use mobile money for cashless transactions, including buying groceries or paying for services.
HelloCash agents function like an ATM: You go up to them and give them cash to get money deposited in your mobile money account, or transfer money out of your account to get cash. In where almost no one has a bank account or a bank branch, agents represent a huge step forward in the availability of cash when you need it and a safe place to deposit it when you don’t.
It turns out that this simple system — initially built off of text messaging, with no smartphones or apps required — makes a significant difference for poor families, with access to mobile money have more stability. The ability to save money and get transfers from friends and family gives them something to fall back on.
HelloCash is now served by more than 10 000 agents anywhere in Ethiopia.
But there’s plenty of room for HelloCash to gain ground among Ethiopia and the neighbours countries. Many of which still have a huge population with no access to mobile money or conventional banking.
How mobile money works?
People in rural Ethiopia, more than 70% of the population, have very few options to manage money. Bank accounts were effectively impossible to access: The nearest banks are far away, and they aren’t meant to serve rural customers who had very little money. The main alternative is carrying cash, which left you vulnerable to theft. Family members who worked in the city want to send money home but had to either send it through couriers for high fees or make the long, sometimes hazardous trip themselves.
Mobile money apps don’t require a brick-and-mortar bank, but they otherwise end up functioning a lot like a bank account and debit card would for an formal bank customer — meaning your average person in Ethiopia with an HelloCash account now has access to most of the same financial services a person having a regular account in one of the multiple banks in Ethiopia. HelloCash mobile money today got off the ground in some off the most unbanked parts of Ethiopia.
For the initial launch, send money and buy airtime are the most used feature. It remains that according to Mountaga Vince Diop, founder of HelloCash, the implementation of ETswitch, the national Ethiopian switch combine with a fast penetration of internet, as well as the new regulation will change the game. Using HelloCash mobile money to process to direct payment or pay invoices is gone be more and more a daily reality for Ethiopians in the coming two years.
By the end of 2022, HelloCash expect to have more than 10 Million customers in Ethiopia.
How HelloCash mobile money impacts poor people’s lives?
Being able to send money to a family member without needing to make a potentially dangerous trip, or keep savings in a smartphone instead of under a mattress, is easy to take for granted. For millions of people in Ethiopia, however, having alternatives to carrying all your wealth in cash is new. HelloCash mobile money is changing that, and the economic effects are profound.
HelloCash financial services such as the ability to safely store, send, and transact money which in the form of mobile money has reached close to 2 Million people in 4 years.
HelloCash have recently started facilitating remittances — money sent home by family members living and working elsewhere. Mobile money makes it safer and easier to send money home, and fees are much lower than fees for wire-transfers or postal services — so more money makes it home, and people in rural communities are less likely to go hungry.
HelloCash should also increase access to health care. Since people are more likely to save money when they have a convenient and safe way to do so, they’re more likely to have savings as a cushion if a household member gets sick. Greater ease of sending money also means that they’re likelier to be able to get help from friends and relatives in an emergency. Overall, the effect is that mobile money makes people likelier to be able to access medical care when they’re sick.
BelCash Technology, the Fintech providing the HelloCash platform as “Platform as a Service” to the African Financial Institutions, and more specifically in Ethiopia, has developed HelloDoctor a platform providing medical advice. The platform operated by Telemed PLC is fully integrated to HelloCash, the next step is to provide financial facilities to the HelloCash customers needing access to Medical treatment.
The Ethiopian administration focus more and more on mobile money accounts as a poverty alleviation tool. Dedicated efforts and energy to give poor people access to sophisticated financial instruments like long-term business loans has been disappointing. Thanks to mobile banking, that benefit can be obtained without the overhead and debt burden of microloans.
Since Q4 2020 HelloCash is providing multiple channels to his customers (IVR, USSD, Web, APP as well as Telegram ChatBot). In Q1 2021 a scoring platform, facilitating Financial institutions to distribute microloans based on Data’s is expected to be integrated to the platform. A companion card to the HelloCash wallet is also underway allowing payment via any POS or withdrawal at any ATM.
Since 5 years HelloCash is struggling to find the right combination of the right technology, the right roll out and the perfect timing to launch new features. The new directives of the National Bank of Ethiopia are providing more flexibility to the implementation of more advanced mobile money solutions, HelloCash believes that in 2025 mobile money will be a reality for every Ethiopian.