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MTN moves to launch instant messaging service

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Telecom giant MTN Group plans to launch a new instant messaging (IM) platform this year.

MTN Smart T, which supports applications like WhatsApp and Facebook, is meant to support MTN’s proposed super-app by enabling low-income earners to send and receive money with ease via mobile, as well as enjoy other benefits of using a smartphone.

The revelation was made last week by Rob Shuter, the group CEO, on March 7 while presenting MTN Group’s financial results for the year ended in December 2018.

“It will begin launching across our operational markets this year, starting with two West African markets,” Shuter is quoted as saying.

He added that that the platform, which is already in beta testing, will offer a wide range of services including a mobile money offering, music streaming, SMS integration, and will support 54 languages.

“We are extending our Bright strategy to build MTN into a digital operator with a major focus on the fintech, digital, enterprise and wholesale business areas,” Shuter said in a statement alongside the results.

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“Key focus areas for 2019 are the launch of our own music streaming and instant messaging applications and extending MTN mobile money from 14 to 18 countries through launches in South Africa, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Sudan.”

However, analysts have expressed optimism about the programme.

According to Techpoint Africa, unlike in China where WeChat’s success can be tied to a monopolistic market and Internet censorship, MTN’s proposed super app will have to compete with a wide variety of apps.

“For instant messaging (IM), WhatsApp is still the most popular app in Africa. Although many IM apps have launched to take on WhatsApp, none has succeeded. For music streaming, another feature of MTN’s proposed app, Africans use a variety of music streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music and Boomplay,” Techpoint Africa says.

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