Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga
By Charles Ajunwa
The World Travel Market (WTM) Global Trends Report 2011released yesterday in London, said Africa was leading the world in mobile commerce, with the travel industry at the forefront of the movement.
The report, which was made known during the on-going WTM conference taking place at Excel International Centre, London, noted that wakanow.com, a Nigerian OTA, launched Africa’s first mobile travel app in 2011, which included searches for flights, hotels and car rental.
The report, done in association with Euromonitor International, said Africa’s lead in mobile commerce was due to the mobile boom in Africa with 489 million phone users, with 60 per cent using their phones to purchase goods.
It said African telecommunications companies are working with the continent’s major airlines, including Kenya Airways to target the 230 million unbanked population.
According to the report, the M-PESA payment system, which was inaugurated in 2007 by Safaricom, an affiliate of Vodaphone, was now an established way for Africans without bank accounts to buy goods and services including travel using their mobile.
In 2010, it said airlines such as Kenya Airways and Ugandan Airlines joined M-PESA and Airtel Money to enable consumers without a bank account to buy air tickets, noting that mobile payment system was also expanding into accommodation with Savora Hotels, one of the region’s leading lodge, camp and safari operators, integrating M-PESA into its global m-commerce strategy.
On initiatives from travel providers in the m-commerce space, the report also said that apart from Nigeria, South Africa Tourism Board launched a dedicated mobile site www.traveltoSA.mobi, to offer deals to visitors from neighbouring countries including Angola, DR Congo and Mozambique.
The report noted that Facebook, the social media giant, now operates in the major African languages of Swahili, Hausa and isiZulu.
Speaking on this positive development in African continent, WTM Chairman, Fiona Jeffrey, said: ‘’The continent of Africa has great potential for the global and tourism industry. With blue-chip corporations such as IBM and Vodafone involved in building a mobile commerce network, regional and global travel companies should be looking even more closely on what the region has to offer.
“Mobile payments systems are commercially and economically important for all sectors operating in the region, with travel and tourism ideally placed to make advantage,” she said.
On his part, Head Travel and Tourism Reasearch at Euromonitor International, said: “Africa has leaped-frogged the rest of the world in terms of mobile commerce, with mobile technology offering great opportunities for travel companies looking to explore this vast and untapped market in the region.”