Vodacom International chief operating officer Diego Gutierrez says Vodacom welcomes consolidation. Picture: SUPPLIED
Vodacom International chief operating officer Diego Gutierrez says Vodacom welcomes consolidation. Picture: SUPPLIED

Vodacom is on a mission to massively grow its mobile money business, and has tapped into the experience of Diego Gutierrez to do so.

Gutierrez has 16 years’ experience in the telecommunications industry in Africa and Latin America.

Vodacom wants 50-million mobile money users in three years, up from the current 35-million.

Gutierrez, who is the current chief operating officer of international business for the Vodacom group, overseeing its international operations, believes this is achievable since "we are still scratching the surface on M-Pesa".

M-Pesa, started in Kenya by Vodacom unit Safaricom, has been extended to Tanzania, Lesotho, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

During the year to March, the M-Pesa platform processed transactions worth $1.9bn, generating a 19.6% increase in M-Pesa revenue to R2.3bn.

Gutierrez is a former executive of Millicom, a telecoms company that also operates mobile financial services brand Tigo. In Africa it operates in Chad, Ghana and Tanzania, as well as eight countries in Latin America.

He says M-Pesa has not only been a "business success story but also a great social success".

M-Pesa began as a basic money-transfer platform, but offers loans and interest-bearing accounts.

The platform will be expanded to include services such as e-commerce, enabling users to make online purchases, sports betting, and possibly crowd-funding using chat services, says Gutierrez.

All these features will be added to an M-Pesa app Vodacom has developed.

"M-Pesa has become a mainstream instrument for payment," he says.

"The more we use intelligent tools like machine learning and customer analytics, the more we will be able to design new features and tailor-make them for our customers."

M-Pesa has more than 300,000 agents — entrepreneurs who process cash for customers. It is rolling out Merchant devices in Tanzania, which will enable customers who have the M-Pesa app to pay for their goods using a QRCode.

Commenting on the overall Vodacom international operations, Gutierrez expects consolidation in some countries, "where there are too many players and consolidation is yelling out loud. As a market leader we are always open to consolidation."

Telecoms is a highly regulated and pressured environment but Gutierrez says in markets where taxes are high and prices are low — resulting in longer payback periods on investments — Vodacom is sharing some infrastructure with rivals to reduce costs, and finding other ways to improve returns.