Central Bank of Myanmar delivers green light for mobile wallet OK Dollar


by Ben Roache

OK$, a mobile payment service that has recently been heavily advertised throughout Yangon, has been granted a Mobile Financial Services (MFS) licence by the Central Bank of Myanmar. This overcomes a major hurdle between OK$ and next generation retail payment, remittance and funds transfer services in the country.

Fig 1 – Screenshot of Frontier Myanmar’s article on the subject

 

There have recently been some concerns raised by Frontier Myanmar (see Fig 1) that the service was operating in a legal grey zone, as functionality contingent on the MFS licence was available ahead of time. But this is no longer a concern for Internet Wallet Myanmar Ltd.

On Thursday last week (See Fig 2), the CBM granted local player Internet Wallet Myanmar Ltd (trading as OK$) authority to act as a Mobile Financial Services Provider, providing payments and financial services to individuals and businesses through mobile technology infrastructure. This was confirmed by a representative of the CBM on Monday afternoon.

The granting of this licence will allow OK$ to step onto a level playing field against its telecom-backed competitors, Wave Money, a joint venture of Telenor and Yoma Bank, and M-Pitesan, run by Oordeoo. It appears that OK$ has no direct banking affiliation, but can receive funds transfers from AYA, KBZ, CB Bank. Both Wave Money and M-Pitesan have already received an MFS licence.

Fig 2 – Screenshot from Central Bank of Myanmar’s website “National Payment System in Myanmar” page

 

All three services allow users to upload cash to local agents around the country, commonly small shops and restaurants. The money is then applied to the mobile wallet stored in an app on a user’s phone. From there, goods can be purchased at participating retailers, and funds can be transferred to other users, usually for free.

It is an exciting time for Mobile Commerce in Myanmar. These services are competing to be the main financial service providers to a huge and largely unbanked Myanmar population, 90% of whom are estimated to be without a bank account.

At the moment, it appears that Wave Money is in the lead. A representative of Wave money said on Tuesday that there are over 9,000 Wave Money agents in the country, with agents in every state of Myanmar. User data wasn’t able to be shared.

May Myo Han, the Public Relations Senior Manager for Ooredoo Myanmar, told Consult-Myanmar that M-Pitesan has not yet officially launched, but it has around 3,200 agents and over 10,000 users as part of its pilot program. The official launch is expected to occur sometime in the next few weeks.

OK$ did not respond to questions prior to press time.

About the author:

Ben Roache has a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts (Double Major: Asian Studies & Japanese) from the University of Adelaide. This article was written as part of a research project on the fintech sector in Myanmar that he was involved in while at Consult-Myanmar, a Yangon-based consulting firm.

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