INVESTMENT

Qatar dials into Africa’s mobile-money scramble

Competition is growing.

In Summary

•Airtel Africa (AAF.L) on Friday said the Qatar Investment Authority would pay $200 million for a minority stake and a board seat in the telco’s mobile-money unit, AMC.

•African banks, tech firms and mobile rivals MTN (MTNJ.J) and Vodacom (VODJ.J) are all battling for market share.

A customer conducts a mobile money transfer. Globally, an estimated 2.5 billion people don’t have a bank account, but many own a cellphone/REUTERS
A customer conducts a mobile money transfer. Globally, an estimated 2.5 billion people don’t have a bank account, but many own a cellphone/REUTERS

Africa’s financial technology buzz is growing. Airtel Africa (AAF.L) on Friday said the Qatar Investment Authority would pay $200 million for a minority stake and a board seat in the telco’s mobile-money unit, AMC.

That’s on top of the $300 million Airtel Africa received from selling stakes in the business to private equity firm TPG and Mastercard (MA.N) earlier this year.

The deal values AMC at an enterprise value of $2.7 billion – over 13 times its EBITDA for the year to March.

Airtel Africa gets cash to invest in telecom infrastructure.

AMC allows phone subscribers to send money without using the banking system.

The long-run potential is vast: mobile-money transaction volumes in sub-Saharan Africa rose 23% to $490 billion last year.

Yet competition is growing. African banks, tech firms and mobile rivals MTN (MTNJ.J) and Vodacom (VODJ.J) are all battling for market share.

The continent’s unpredictable regulators and economic gyrations also create problems. Not everyone will grab a prize.