Payment by phone is the standard in East Africa

A cell phone and bill.

BOB MOON: In Europe this week, the mobile phone company Ericsson rolled out its new plan to allow payments by mobile phone. Similar early-stage tests are going in the U.S. But the mobile payments aren't new in east Africa, where few people have outside major towns have access to traditional bank accounts and people have been making payments through their phones for years.

The BBC's Anna Cavell reports from Uganda.


ANNA CAVELL: On the Uganda street, it's as easy and quick to receive a money transfer as it is to receive a text message. A registered user just takes their mobile phone to one of the phone company storefronts, shows the message, pays a small fee and receives the money in cash.

It's now commonplace for people to pay for all sorts of things using their phone, even utility bills and school fees.

Kenneth Munyi at Kampala's Protea hotel used to have to pay his staff in cash.

KENNETH MUNYI: We had a lot of concern about staff queuing in the office asking for getting paid and we discovered that it's a nice method of paying people because they don't actually have to come to the office to get paid.

Before Mobile Money, if people wanted to send cash back to their village, they'd have to carry or ship it back. But since so many people now have mobile phones in East Africa it's possible to send cash around with much less risk of theft.

In Kampala, Uganda, I'm the BBC's Anna Cavell for Marketplace.

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