By Steve Haley, Director of Market Development and Partnerships, Mojaloop Foundation

The Mojaloop Community has taken an important step forward in empowering countries to maintain sovereignty over their financial systems.

At our 21st community meeting, Alain Kajangwe of WiredIn demonstrated a new mobile payment app feature that allows payers to hide their account information from the payee. It’s an amazing Rwandan solution to a specific Rwandan market situation. What’s extra special here is that WiredIn, a Rwandan software firm based in Kigali, used Mojaloop to integrate this functionality of their Murakoze Wallet product, which allows users to make payments to and from any account in the country.

There is no external vendor — it’s all homegrown. All the data can be stored on Rwandan soil and stays subject to Rwandan regulatory requirements. Global fintechs typically offer incredible experiences for end users on their local accounts, but often at the expense of terms and conditions that leave them subject to foreign data mining. We believe payment systems should help local fintechs to compete.

Part of what we love about this success story is that WiredIn is one of the participants in the Mojaloop Foundation’s new Accelerator Program.

If you’re unfamiliar with Mojaloop, it’s an open-source cloud-native payment switch that empowers hub operators to build inclusive instant payment systems (IIPS). An IIPS enables financial inclusion through low- or no-cost transaction services that anyone with a mobile phone can use, even if they are underbanked. The Mojaloop Foundation is promoting the use of Mojaloop in developing countries as a digital public good.

In this article, we’ll briefly explain the Accelerator Program, the benefits to national payment project implementation teams, how the Program makes the business case work for local companies, and how this system benefits all Mojaloop users.

Accelerating Success

The Accelerator Program pairs experienced system integrators (SIs) with new ones who have been through our free online Mojaloop Training Program. In the case of the WiredIn team, ThitsaWorks, an experienced SI based in Asia, provided support and guidance during their project.

ThitsaWorks is also one of the Mojaloop success stories. They started off building an IIPS using Mojaloop in Myanmar but have expanded into other Southeast Asian countries and even Latin America. They, in turn, were originally mentored by Infitx, one of our founding SIs. This is the kind of network effect we really want to see, especially with companies that have a strong national focus and the ability to expand regionally.

Especially in relatively small countries, like Rwanda, Zambia, and Guinea, we want to build the capacity of the local IT ecosystem to support the national payment system. We hope that, through our Accelerator Program, local SIs can not only accomplish that goal, but they can also use their experience to create financial services networks in some of their neighboring countries.

Benefits to National Payment Project Teams

When a country uses local talent for developing its financial systems, not only do they retain more digital sovereignty, but the skills of that local team can be more easily shared with neighboring countries.

There are also massive cost savings benefits to the countries where these projects take place. If a large international firm were engaged to help a local firm, it could cost over $50,000 USD or more in flights and hotels to bring project teams together to collaborate for a few days. (And let’s be honest, large firms will gladly take a “cost plus” approach to the travel budget). In contrast, a similar meetup with a team from just over the border would cost about $2,000 USD.

These savings are even more important to less wealthy countries who are trying to create systems that can be used by even their most impoverished citizens. In these situations, any cost saving helps.

Making the Business Case Work

The question for a local SI becomes, “Why put time and money into learning Mojaloop?” There has to be a business opportunity for them.

Our Accelerator Program tries to answer the business problem for local SIs. For a small software development company, the time the team spends learning Mojaloop must pay off with a long-term or multiple short-term contracts so that they can stay profitable, pay people, and keep the lights on.

Ultimately there are two ways that local SIs and fintechs can earn revenue with Mojaloop projects:

  1. Their central bank needs to hire someone to implement and maintain Mojaloop (performing updates, etc.)
  2. Their central bank has already adopted a Mojaloop-based payment system and there is demand for additional products on top of it, like specific payment apps, fraud monitoring systems, credit scoring systems, etc.

However, a government still needs to kick start the cycle by creating the demand in deciding to use Mojaloop to build their new payment system — as was the case with Rwanda and WiredIn. But one of the things that governments ask before making that decision is what the SI ecosystem looks like in their country so they can choose a provider.

That’s why we offer the Accelerator Program only when a government is committed to officially exploring Mojaloop as an option. The SIs see a market signal to invest in knowledge development, and the government sees the growth of a local ecosystem to support a future Mojaloop deployment.

Mojaloop has a robust open-source community, who are all very eager to share their knowledge — but they are time bound. The Accelerator Program allows us to encourage community members to focus on specific SIs who are working on the most important projects. We even try to broker some extra conversations to make sure that our spotlight SIs get access to any additional mentorship that they need. The commitment from the national government is also a signal to the community to invest in building relationships with local SIs.

Creating New Features for Everyone

As with any complex software, you can’t learn how to use Mojaloop by just asking people questions. Developers have to dig into the code and actually try to build something with it and learn by solving the problems that come up along the way.

The Accelerator Program creates benefits for all Mojaloop integrators and users by enlisting the participating organizations to improve the product. Our Accelerator participant SIs have been adding some incredibly useful new features to the platform — this also gives them a sense of pride and ownership.

The process has been working very well so far. First, our Director of Product introduces them to all of the community workstreams in our roadmap. Then they collaborate with one workstream lead to find a project to focus on for a couple of months. From there, our mentoring SIs work with them to help them solve any problems that come up. Once the project is complete and fully tested, the new feature becomes available to all the integrators.

Find Out More

A Mojaloop-enabled IIPS brings low- or no-cost, digital financial services to anyone with access to a mobile phone, whether their financial services provider is big or small, urban or rural, national or local — including the unbanked and underserved.

Message me on LinkedIn if you’d like to talk about what Mojaloop can do.