Yesterday it was my turn to visit the the small alleys and brick houses as well as the local bar. Jeroen, the half-dutch half-Rwandan friend of ours, showed me around since he is familiar with the Rwandeses living there. When we sat down to relax for a bit we started talking to a guy named George [Jeroge]. He was writing long lists and checking something on his phone. We soon found out that he was writing up odds for today’s football games (Champions league). Turns out that George is a bookmaker and had a lot of customers waiting to place a bet.
What is especially interesting about George’s bookmaking is that all bets are placed with mobile money. In Rwanda, MTN and Tigo cash are the two main mobile money services. George told me; “Only rich people use MTN, Tigo cash is much more common in the rural areas”. So anyone who wants to place a bet can just send 100 or 200 Rwandan franc through Tigo cash.
Even at the bar most locals pay with mobile money. George told me that he had never even owned a credit card. I was aware that mobile money was rather widespread in Rwanda but not at this scale. I thought it was mostly used to send money between family members and friends, so this was a interesting discovery for me. Almost everyone in the rural areas owns a phone, but they don’t get to use a computer until they are 17 years old. So most folks encounter computers the first time at school.
The experience at the bar was very educational and inviting and George was not the only entrepreneur there at the time. More of that later!