• Following the example of Absa, MTN launched a WhatsApp service on Tuesday.
  • You can now buy MTN data via WhatsApp.
  • The announcement came during a turbulent day for the company, which at one stage saw its share price down 7%.


In a dramatic day for MTN for other reasons, the company launched a new WhatsApp service on Tuesday to allow customers to interact with it via the popular text-messaging platform.

MTN's share price suffered a sharp drop in the morning, after the Nigerian government urged a Lagos court to proceed with a penalty of $2 billion (R29 billion) against MTN. The government first instituted the penalty last year, accusing MTN of evading taxes. MTN's share price has lost almost a fifth of its value in response.  

By afternoon, its share price had recovered and was last trading less than a percent lower.

Meanwhile, MTN South Africa launched a new service that allows customers to buy airtime and data through Whatsapp.

The Whatsapp-based MTN Chat service will eventually also allow customers to speak to customer support and upgrade their packages. Customers will also get low-balance alerts via WhatsApp.

MTN follows Absa, which recently introduced WhatsApp-based “chat banking”.

Though MTN reportedly claimed a “world first” in allowing customers to buy airtime via WhatsApp, Absa customers can already do just that via its service.  

Read: I only spend R17 on cellphone data a month – here's how I do it

WhatsApp remains by far the most popular messenger app in South Africa; according to a recent study, 49% of adult South Africans use WhatsApp – compared to Facebook Messenger's 32%.

As with the Absa service, MTN Chat has been enabled by South African-born company Clickatell, which was founded in Cape Town in 2000 to help businesses communicate via SMS.

It has since partnered with WhatsApp, and now has a head office in Silicon Valley, with 15,000 clients around the world, including Visa, IBM and McKinsey. Clickatell may even consider listing in the US this year.

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