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Tanzania is quietly making history with help from mobile money. Here’s how.

  • By Timothy Roberts
  • Thursday, August 15, 2019

Some know it as home to Mount Kilimanjaro, made famous by the world’s most daring (and strangest) alpine adventurists. Others know Tanzania for its contributions to the study of human evolution. It’s also celebrated as East Africa’s most linguistically diverse country, with over 100 languages spoken within its borders.

And in a year or two, Tanzania plans to claim another achievement: the status of lower Middle Income Country (MIC).

Countries with lower MIC status have a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of at least US$1,026. That’s the minimum threshold established by the World Bank, whose country classifications are recognized around the world as a meaningful indicator of financial health and resilience. Tanzania has been in the lowest classification tier since the World Bank’s program began, but years of steady economic growth have pushed its GNI per capita to US$1,020—within a whisper of that coveted MIC status.

When it comes, this change in status will signal a major leap forward in achieving what the country’s administration calls Development Vision 2025. Since its initial formulation nearly 25 years ago, this economic and social development vision has driven Tanzania’s national agenda, helping to stimulate major industrialization projects in the name of elevating socio-economic prosperity.

All of this economic activity (and the success of Development Vision 2025) is driven in part by the intersection of Tanzania’s many thriving industries: manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, energy, and so on. Connecting them all are the country’s telecoms innovators, led by Telepin partner (and second-largest mobile services provider in the country), Tigo Tanzania.

How mobile money is driving Tanzania’s economic growth and resilience

In 2015, Tigo migrated from its incumbent service provider to Telepin’s platform, enhancing the speed, security and reliability of its mobile money app, Tigo Pesa—the first mobile money service in Africa.

Not long after that, Tigo and Telepin achieved another first: they were among the initial few companies to earn GSMA Mobile Money Certification. To earn its certification, Tigo was independently assessed against the industry’s best practices for enhancing security and protecting consumer interests. The assessment included 300 specific and detailed criteria, and only those providers who earned a perfect score were awarded certification.

Tigo’s achievement set a new standard of quality for Tanzania’s mobile money operators. It also indicated the way forward for companies determined to support the goals of Vision 2025, particularly in terms of providing the people of Tanzania with the best-in-class digital tools they needed to overcome poverty and sustain a high-quality livelihood.

Today, those tools are better, faster and more useful than ever. When Telepin’s relationship with Tigo began, the mobile money operator was mainly a remittance business. Since then, they’ve worked alongside our development team to evolve into a full-fledged financial service platform, offering customers micro loans, savings and insurance, as well as interconnection with more than a hundred billers and most major banks. Tigo then used Telepin’s technology to become the first mobile money platform with a Swahili smartphone menu, helping drive financial service adoption across the country. They also offer Tanzania’s largest 4G network. In 2018, they launched the ultra-fast 4G+ network in a few major cities, giving customers even faster access to their mobile services.

In each of these accomplishments, Tigo demonstrates the kind of innovative problem-solving and customer-driven platform design that has helped countries across the African continent, including Tanzania, to drive economic growth in remarkable ways. In 2018, for example, the thriving mobile industry contributed US$144 billion to Sub-Saharan African’s overall GDP (in 2023, that number is expected to grow to US$285 billion). In Tanzania, mobile money platforms like the one powered by Telepin and Tigo have helped bring financial services to 62% of the population, an extraordinary increase over just 11% in 2006.

What does all of this mean?

It means that countries like Tanzania are benefiting deeply from harmonization between socio-economic goals and telecom innovators like Tigo. With help from Telepin, Tigo is positioned to directly and positively impact the lives of everyday Tanzanians, lifting them from poverty and giving them access to secure, resilient and flexible financial tools.

We are proud to be part of that story and look forward to celebrating the day (not long now!) when Tanzania achieves its MIC status. For Tigo and for the people of Tanzania, that will be a remarkable moment.