If there’s one thing that mobile money systems need, it’s universality. And that’s something that Tigo, the Tanzanian mobile service provider, has now tackled head-on.

The Tigo mobile wallet is the first in the world to allow cross-border transfers, replete with currency conversion. The latter is an obvious stumbling block when the typical usage case is considered. Migrant workers in one country earn cash, and now they want to send it back to their families. Except those families are in another country.

Tigo’s mobile wallet allows for this, letting users between Tanzania and neighbouring Rwanda send money without the complication of converting it themselves. The two countries each have access to a mobile wallet run by Tigo; in Rwanda it’s Tigo Cash, which uses the country’s francs, and in Tanzania it’s Tigo Pesa, which uses shillings. The service was launched in each country’s capital, with Tanzania’s high commissioner and Rwanda’s finance minister completing the fist cross-border transactions using Tigo.

Money transferred can be used for payment of utilities bills (water and electricity), airtime for phones, television services, and public transport. Tigo also provides facilities for cash to be withdrawn from mobile wallets.

The smart move now would be for things to get even more universal, and have Tigo’s wallet plug into Kenya’s Mpesa system. However, that kind of integration is unlikely, if even on the cards.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.