Etisalat Afghanistan has announced the launch of its mobile money service, dubbed mHawala. The mobile banking platform is provided by Telepin Software and includes a full range of mobile financial services. mHawala allows customers to check their balance, pay for utilities, receive their salary and transfer funds. The Emirates-based cellco said that the development was a reaction to the needs of its Afghani customers: ‘Mobile density in Afghanistan is currently at 50% and is growing rapidly. However, 95% of Afghanis do not have access to banking infrastructure’ said Dr. Ali Asgharzadeh the head of Etisalat’s operations in Afghanistan. As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, at the end of September 2011 population penetration of wireless services in Afghanistan was 54.1%, having risen from just 8.3% at end-2006.
The mHawala service claims to be the first mobile banking service in the country, but Etisalat was beaten to the punch by Telecom Development Company Afghanistan (Roshan), which launched its M-Paisa offering in 2008. The following year the Afghanistan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC) launched a basic service enabling customers to check their balance by SMS.