Mobile banking in North Korea

Last year, I blogged about testing Orascom's 3G internet service in Pyongyang after meeting some of Orascom's employees. The original plan was to roll out the internet service to the expat community in Pyongyang. As far as I can tell, that has yet to happen, although doing so would greatly reduce the costs of existing internet options (ursurious broadband/ satellite internet) with some security trade-offs for users. However, it appears that Naguib, Chairman of Orascom, might have other ideas. In his words, "Orabank, our banking arm in DPRK, is actively working towards developing mobile-related businesses and projects." The 3G network provides a platform for a range of other services that emerging market economies would need including remittances and payments through mobile banking and mobile payments. Given the primitive development of the services sector, mobile provides an opportunity for Orascom to upend the services industry in North Korea.

This was something I was originally looking at in North Korea. Payments are currently messy in the country. On a previous trip, I remembered an account of a North Korean trying to pay the handphone bill. Apparently the payment went to the wrong account, and the North Koreans spent the morning calling and shouting at some people to make the mistaken beneficiary return the money so that the payment could go to the right account. For what mobile banking and payments could potentially look like in North Korea, check out M-pesa.