Orange has burnished its mobile money credentials in Africa through a new partnership with Ecobank that allows customers to transfer money between their bank accounts and Orange Money e-wallet services using text-messaging features.
The service is being rolled out in the markets of Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea Conakry and Niger, having already been introduced in Mali and Cameroon last year.
"Since its launch in January 2015 in Mali, this service has been a huge success with close to €110 million [$124 million] transferred between Ecobank and Orange Money accounts," said Thierry Millet, the director of Orange Money, in a company statement.
Mobile money services have become a strategic priority for Orange (NYSE: FTE) in Africa and the Middle East and are now available in 14 markets across the region. Orange claims more than €8 billion ($9 billion) was exchanged in 2015, and that more than 16 million customers are currently using mobile money services.
During a presentation in London last year, executives from the French telecom incumbent said they were looking to increase revenues at the mobile money business from about €50 million ($56 million) in 2014 to around €200 million ($225 million) in 2018.
Orange made about €4.9 billion ($5.5 billion) in revenues in Africa and the Middle East last year -- around 12% of total Group revenues.
Customers are charged a commission for transferring money via text-messaging services, but the rates are much lower than fees charged by traditional money-transfer businesses such as Western Union.
Orange has more recently outlined ambitions of becoming a bank in the European region. Earlier this year, it announced it was in discussions about acquiring a 65% stake in Groupama Banque, the banking subsidiary of French insurance giant Groupama, with plans to launch a range of banking services in France next year.
Besides targeting opportunities in financial services, Orange has also been growing its business in west and central Africa through takeover activity. This year alone, Orange has acquired businesses in Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading