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(Reuters) - Phone operators in Africa and the Middle East are rushing to get ahead in the mobile banking and mobile money transfer game, a market likely to encompass nearly a billion people by 2014.
Following are the leading operators and their key markets:
* Safaricom - Partly owned by Britain's Vodafone, number one Kenyan operator Safaricom introduced 'mobile money' to Africa with its M-PESA service that has signed up 6.5 million Kenyans in just over two years.
Safaricom says it is considering launching M-PESA-style services in a number of countries across the globe.
Zain - The Kuwaiti firm launched its ZAP service in Kenya and Tanzania in February this year to take on M-PESA. Zain is not saying how many customers it has signed up, but trumpets very strong growth.
It is also in the middle of launching in Uganda, Niger and Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and a key target market.
CEO Chris Gabriel says by the end of 2009 ZAP will be in all 23 countries in Africa and the Middle East where Zain now operates. That includes Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Sierra Leone and Democratic Republic of Congo.
MTN - Africa's biggest operator by subscribers, MTN has launched its MobileMoney service in South Africa and Uganda and has piloted the service in Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
The South African firm is now working on rolling out a similar offering in Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
France Telecom's Orange - Orange Money, a partnership with French bank BNP Paribas, is piloting in Ivory Coast and should be rolled out in Senegal, Mali and Egypt by the end of the year and Madagascar in early 2010.
Source: Reuters News, company websites, BNP Paribas