Andy has always been excited by results, growth, and driving change. He has used his extensive entrepreneurial skills primarily in finance, but also in technology, entertainment, and consulting. Once he was exposed to the mobile money and financial inclusion space, however, he decided to use his abilities to help organizations that want to have a positive social impact.

The Mojaloop Foundation has been experiencing some exciting growth in the past year. To help that momentum continue, Andy was invited to join the Mojaloop Foundation in April as our new deputy director.

He has been busy ever since, but he took a few moments to share his perspective with us. You can learn what he had to say below.

Connect with Andy on LinkedIn > 

Tell us about yourself. What has your career path been, and how did you become interested in the Mojaloop Foundation and its mission?

My interest in this space started about seven or eight years ago. I had completed my MBA and was working in financial services in New York. I decided to take some time to think about what I wanted my career to entail. I realized that I wanted to have some sort of positive social impact, and ideally be working in emerging markets.

During my search, I got turned on to mobile money and digital financial services in Africa. I moved to London to work at the Global System for Mobile Association (GSMA), which focuses on helping the mobile money industry grow.

My primary remit was the interoperability of mobile money providers and the general financial ecosystem in Africa. I was mainly involved with Sub-Saharan Africa, but it was a global position and I also worked in Latin America and Asia. I worked pretty closely with the Gates Foundation on the Level One principles initially, and then on the development of Mojaloop.

I had the opportunity to work closely with the Gates Foundation again when we brought them into discussions with Orange and MTN on Mowali, which was a mobile money wallet project. They decided to adopt Mojaloop as their platform, and I felt I was aligned with what the Gates Foundation was trying to do.

I left the GSMA about four years ago to run a mobile money provider across several markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. When I heard about the deputy director position, it seemed like a great time to come back into the fold and work on Mojaloop again.

Tell us a bit about your role. What are your main responsibilities?

As deputy director, my main role will be to support Paula Hunter in the building and running of the organization. We’re still figuring it out as we go, but I think that as the foundation has grown, Paula has been wearing a whole bunch of hats. Probably I will too as I help take some of that off her.

Right now a lot of it is general administration, but there’s some exciting stuff too, like building out our new tech team that we’re hiring to support our implementations. I’ll also be looking at new grant opportunities that will allow us to do more and will write our new grant applications with the Gates Foundation to support the next three years.

I’m also helping with some other stuff around how the organization operates, like reporting and standardizing some of what we do.

What are you looking forward to most about your role, and what do you hope to accomplish?

What I’m looking forward to most is being part of the community around Mojaloop. I love getting into discussions around interoperability and innovation in the space both within our team and with the broader community. I want to do anything and everything that I can to help drive the usage, uptake, or deployment of Mojaloop.

In your opinion, what have been some of the Mojaloop Foundation’s most significant accomplishments to date?

I think the growth of the community around Mojaloop is really impressive, especially because the last time I was involved was pretty close to its inception.

Developing a community is a big hurdle to overcome, especially in an open-source platform like Mojaloop. Early on there was a concern with how that would happen.

Also, payment system infrastructure primarily gets implemented at the national level by a government, and to try to build a community around that when you’re still getting the first adoptions off the ground is challenging.

Building that groundswell around a platform that isn’t something that individuals or a small company can start using and start talking about is difficult. I think the Mojaloop Foundation has done a great job in continuing to evangelize the software, and building its open-source community while the platform has started to be adopted.

It’s fantastic that we already have this community to support its growth from a technical perspective and a user perspective. You need to create actors around it that are willing to contribute, and there are people from all over the world coming to community meetings with the Foundation.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenge in the digital payments landscape?

If we’re talking about digital payments, and let’s include mobile money in this, in Sub-Saharan Africa or emerging markets in general the challenge lies in figuring out how to scale merchant payments.

Mobile money has done a great job in scaling peer-to-peer (P2P), some of which are informal merchant or retail payments. But I think one of the biggest challenges is to create an interoperable merchant payment network where, regardless of what payment method you’re using or merchant you’re visiting, that merchant can accept payments from different sources.

When 80% of the country doesn’t have a bank account and virtually no one has credit cards, it’s still a pure cash economy. Mobile money has become the default way of banking. So the economics of creating a payment system where people can pay with mobile money is complicated when you’re dealing with pure cash.

The number one issue is who pays for that transaction, and there’s also the issue of who acquires that merchant. Right now, every mobile money provider would have to go acquire that merchant. There isn’t one payment network, like a Visa or MasterCard, that can just work for everyone in Sub-Saharan Africa. So interoperability is a way to potentially build a merchant network that is available to everyone.

What keeps you excited and motivated to help further the Foundation’s mission? In other words, what gets you out of bed in the morning?

I think what excites me the most is helping to support the organization in new implementations and just driving the usage of Mojaloop across the globe. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing as long as I could tie it into that.

For example, helping build out our team that’s going to be in the market supporting new implementations is great. I’m only two weeks in, but I look forward to getting more involved in the community aspects and meeting some of the new people that have come into the community since I was last involved in it four years ago.

At the core, however, it’s about seeing positive change in the markets and people’s lives.

Having worked on interoperability in this space for seven or eight years now, I’ve yet to see another fit-for-purpose payment system that incorporates everyone, including people who might be earning less than two US dollars per day.

Once we have more deployments, I think Mojaloop will have the effect of increasing transactions, increasing usage, and increasing use cases potentially — especially merchant payments. I do believe that the more markets are willing to implement something to foster the interoperability that’s needed, the better it will be for the financial system as a whole, the economy as a whole, and most importantly, the people in the country.

I don’t think that I’m ever going to be interested in a role again if I can’t tie it to something as beneficial as this.

Connect with Andy on LinkedIn >