How to get started with mobile money

Mobile money transactions are commonplace in Tanzania. Photo: Daniel Hayduk

Mobile money transactions are commonplace in Tanzania. Photo: Daniel Hayduk

To people in North America and Europe, mobile money payments are a bit of a foreign concept.

Here in Tanzania — and all of East Africa for that matter — mobile money is commonplace.

Basically, mobile money is designed to replace the cash in your wallet, much like a debit card — but with the ability to send and receive money instantly on your phone.

Not sure how to get started? Go to your phone carrier’s office with valid ID and some money to load onto your new mobile money account.

No app is required — you access the service by using USSD ‘quick codes’, the same way you top up your phone using scratch cards or check your balance.

Every carrier is slightly different, so they’ll walk you through the finer details of accessing your account.

Vodacom’s M-Pesa pioneered this field in Kenya and Tanzania in 2007/8. It has become the most successful mobile financial service in the developing world and mobile money has become key to reaching the ‘unbanked’ population.

But once your account is set up you can send money to other phone numbers, top up your own phone credit, pay your bills,  and even do some banking.

An increasing number of grocery stores, restaurants and even gas stations in Dar es Salaam accept mobile money.

In June 2017, Jones Mrusha went cashless in Dar for a whole month. You can read about his experiences here.

Tariffs are based on how much you send and to which provider you’re sending money to. (Charges to the same provider are lower than sending Airtel to Vodacom, for example.)

Every service provider is slightly different, but if you’re in Tanzania for any length of time you’ll wan to get on the mobile money train.

If it’s all a bit too confusing to figure out yourself, the easiest thing to do is go to the nearest agent and ask them to walk you through the process.

Don’t be embarrassed: we all went that route when we first started using mobile money.

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