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Africa leads global SMS trends

African companies are leading the way in developing innovative uses of SMS messaging. This is the latest word from the Global Messaging 2008 conference, held in Cannes, France, on 8 - 9 May 2008. “Delegates at the conference were surprised by the number of innovative ways that SMS messaging is already being used in Africa, especially for banking services, person-to-person messaging and local economic development,” said Dr Pieter Streicher, MD of, who attended this fifth annual conference.
“South Africa, for instance, has some widely used messaging services that are almost unheard of in the rest of the world,” Streicher added.

The popular “Call Me” person-to-person data service, according Andries Human, senior system planner at MTN, averages more than 13 million messages a day on the MTN network alone. The ‘Call Me” service uses USSD and SMS technologies.

SMS banking services

The use of SMS for banking services provides another example of African innovation. While the rest of the world is only starting to explore the use of SMS messaging for banking, MTN already has six years experience in the sector and has learnt many lessons during its early years in SMS banking. MTN found solutions to fraud problems, such as SIM swap, before international experts even identified these threats.

In the rest of Africa, where fixed line networks are poor, farmers now receive financial returns of up to 40% more for their produce as a result of pricing transparency facilitated by SMS messaging. SMS communications also enable young people in rural areas to find jobs in cities. Previously, responding to job adverts in the newspapers was futile as by the time a person has travelled to the city the vacancy had been filled.

“These changes in access to information via SMS messaging go far to contribute to local economic development in African countries and are as revolutionary as the introduction of roads, railways and ports in linking Africa to the global economy,” said Streicher.

A2P growth predicted

Global data revenues exceeded US$156 854 million in 2007, according to a March 2008 World Cellular Data Metrics report by Informa Telecoms and Media. Nevertheless, key industry growth indicators show that while SMS messaging continues to grow, with 3 trillion messages expected to be sent in 2012, premium rate SMS messaging is showing signs of stagnating in many markets.

Many speakers at Global Messaging 2008 pointed out that the current and future growth of SMS messaging is in standard rate application-to-person (A2P) messaging market. According to British Telecom, by 2014 in the UK more than 30% of SMS messages received will not be from friends but rather business or interest group related A2P messages.

The early adopters of A2P messaging for notifications and customer service facilitation include the financial services sector, transportation and healthcare. In the UK, Ofcom (which is better known for issuing massive fines when premium rate messaging is abused) recently released promising reports on how SMS messaging can benefit the healthcare and transport sectors.

“Benefits are clear”

According to Streicher, “Although the benefits are clear, and compelling case studies exist, the adoption of A2P messaging by large enterprises is a long process. It takes time to integrate messaging solutions into legacy software systems. This is steadily happening though, and as this conference has shown, each year there are more and more presentations reporting on the successful use of SMS messaging within the enterprise sector.”

A consequence of this trend towards the adoption of SMS messaging by large enterprises is that pressure is being put on network operators to offer better service level agreements. While a typical response of a network operator to a consumer regarding the non-delivery of a message would be “send it again”, this is not acceptable for enterprises where a lost message could have serious operational consequences.

“Coming away from the Global Messaging 2008 conference I am encouraged to see how a maturing messaging industry remains open to innovation and growth opportunities both in terms of markets in developing countries and the uptake of A2P messaging for enterprises,” said Streicher.
Makes sense to mention that Metropolitan & Clickatell won the award...-
Clickatell, leading provider of global mobile messaging, today announced it won the “Best Messaging Business Application” award by 160 Characters as part of its 2008 Mobile Messaging Awards. As one of three finalists in the Messaging Business Application category, Clickatell was chosen because of its work with Metropolitan Cover2Go, who provides life insurance directly to customers’ cell phones via SMS. The 2008 Mobile Messaging awards cover the whole range of mobile messaging including SMS, MMS, IM, email, and voice-messaging. Mike Grenville, founder of commented, “Clickatell and the other award winners represent the most exciting and promising companies in the enterprise mobile space today.” The award winners were presented last week at the Gala Awards Dinner in Cannes at the Global Messaging Congress. “Leading enterprises worldwide are providing mobile services using text messaging to build customer relations, acquire new customers, and build a trusted brand,” said Pieter de Villiers, CEO of Clickatell. “Metropolitan Cover2go is a great example of how our business-class applications can change lives. Through a highly innovative SMS-based service, Metropolitan customers can rest assured, knowing they have the insurance coverage they need anytime, anywhere via their cell phone.” Having moved away from the traditional way of selling insurance, Metropolitan Cover2go offers insurance in a way that is convenient and hassle-free for customers. The belief that insurance should be bought, not sold, puts the decision in the hands of the customer. The SMS accidental death insurance product is easy to access and use by anyone with a cell phone. The policy is bought by sending your name and ID number to a premium-rate short code and the cost is applied directly to the phone’s plan. The system, powered by Clickatell, responds with a confirmation and policy number, requests the name of a beneficiary, and reminds the policyholder to make sure they inform someone about the life insurance. Once the policy expires, a notification is sent asking if they choose to renew. This service can be applied anywhere across the globe, making it possible for people to benefit from added insurance coverage while on the go, anywhere, anytime. “The use of SMS to enable our business process helps us to achieve nothing less than a complete revolution in the life insurance industry. With mobile messaging from Clickatell, we’ve been able to dramatically simplify the process of buying insurance and increase availability to customers who would otherwise not qualify through general insurance carriers under normal circumstances. Clickatell’s global SMS gateway made this deployment a simple process and has guaranteed message delivery enabling us to ensure reliable delivery of each message,” says Derek Pead of Metropolitan Cover2Go. For more information about Metropolitan Cover2Go please visit:
Posted on 19 May 2008 21:47