Calling all African Startups: 4 Tips for Partnering with a Telco
Adia Sowho
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The GSMA is proposing an API-driven approach to solve these partnership problems. See here: http://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/programme/ecosystem-accelerator/apis-bridge-mobile-operators-start-ups-emerging-markets

Generally speaking, operators in Africa are still very much in the walled-garden line of business. Native proprietary protocols and silo-based access are still the way we operate. On the commercial side, the two big challenges are monetization (collections), and regulatory restrictions, the later for now being beyond the reach of individual operators.

A simple way to move forward would be for operators to do these two simple things:

(1) implement a 3rd party integration layer that provides bearer support across all bearers supported on the network. This would however require operators to close their eyes to bearer-based charging, which is going to be a problem, in the way we currently account for, and bill services and network traffic. Technically it’s relatively simple to do.

(2)bring in independent payment players into the picture. I.e. operators can create a ‘wallet’ strategy that partitions recharges into either payment money or airtime. Ideally this would be administered by a CBN-licensed 3rd party, but given the current level of regulatory understanding of the problem, and the need for ‘protectionism’ by the banking regulator, this is going to need a lot of work.

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