Along with the recent news that Facebook is planning on further developing, refining and extending their money transfer service which has recently found its way into the social network’s messaging platform comes a series of intriguing development opportunities for nations around the world who could use these innovations to further their own economic agendas. In Africa, for example, Facebook’s announcements regarding the future of online payments has been met with extreme enthusiasm, due in large part to the fact that the relatively scarce number of competitors within the African money transfer market has allowed those with a foothold to raise prices and fees without fear of competition.
Internet penetration within the African continent has always been a deterrent to investment from high-tech companies. That being said, an increasing number of individuals within Africa are gaining access to internet connections, making the long-term viability of Facebook’s mobile payment system in this region of the world seem all the more assured.
If Facebook were to solidify their presence within this particular arena, Africans would not only benefit from the new services provided to them, but also by the resulting decrease in fees that Facebook’s competitors would be forced to adopt in order to retain their pre-existing, likely disgruntled customer base. Price wars have always worked in favour of the consumer, and this particular scenario would likely be no different.
Given the fact that the African currencies have long been dramatically undervalued compared to their Western counterparts, the fees charged by pre-existing payment services have often severely hampered the efforts of Africans attempting to send money to one another or relatives abroad. This period of exploitation is, however, directly threatened by the affordable and efficient services now offered by Facebook to all users.
Although there is little way to predict what exactly the future will hold for Africa’s internet infrastructure, many experts believe that Facebook is only one of companies who will likely be attempting to further their agendas within this relatively untapped marketplace. First-mover advantage is very real, which means that Facebook’s money transfer system will likely become a popular tool relatively quickly. Whether it is able to maintain this advantage over time, however, has yet to be seen. More information will likely become available in upcoming months as the system continues to gain exposure and visibility with the general public.