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Liberia gets first mobile payment service

Lonestar Cell introduced the service, after launching in various other African nations

A cash management service using mobile phones was introduced in Liberia on Friday by Lonestar Cell.

The telco, which is a member of the MTN Group, launched Mobile Money for sending and receiving money using mobile phones. The service was launched in partnership with Ecobank, the pan-African bank with operations in more than 29 countries, and is the first such service in Liberia.

"We are providing the technology, platform and product that will impact positively the Liberian market -- a product, we believe, that is set to revolutionize the idea of money transfer in and around Liberia," said Lonestar Cell CEO Mazen Mroue.

The launch of Mobile Money followed the introduction of Liberia's first mobile broadband Internet service, iConnect.

MTN operates in a number of African countries and has launched its mobile payment service in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin, Cameroon, Guinea Bissau, Swaziland, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya (M-Pesa) and South Africa.

Internal Affairs Minister Harrison Kanwea, who helped launch Mobile Money on behalf of President Johnson Sirleaf, said the introduction of the mobile payment in Liberia has long been overdue. It took longer than in other nations because of the small telecom market in Liberia and the low level of technological advancement caused by a devastating civil war more than a decade ago.

Neighboring Sierra Leone, on the other hand, introduced its first mobile money service, SplashMoney, in 2009, followed by Zain's (now Airtel's) Zap in 2010.

About 10 percent of Liberia's population of 3.4 million have bank accounts and more than 40 percent have mobile phones, so the service will provide the opportunity for more Liberians, particularly those in rural areas without access to cash, to conduct more business, thus improving their lives despite difficult roads and limited formal banking facilities, Mroue said.

Mobile Money offers money transfer services such as deposit and withdrawal from bank accounts, account-to-account transfer, call card purchases, bulk payment for large groups of people, utility bills payments and international remittance.

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