More than half the world’s mobile money deployments are coming from a perhaps unexpected source: Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet in a way, that balance makes sense. Mobile money deployments give unbanked individuals access to financial services, and that’s clearly filling a significant need in that part of the world.
A new study by GSMA, “State of Mobile Money in Sub-Saharan Africa,” revealed that a decade of mobile money services growth in the region has culminated in 140 mobile money schemes across 39 countries in the region – more than half of the 277 mobile money deployments globally.
In seven regions – Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe – more than 40 percent of adults are active mobile money users.
It all started with the launch of Vodafone’s transfer service M-Pesa in Kenya in 2007. The market has grown from a means to top up mobile airtime and make person-to-person transfers to an enabler of other financial services: for example, paying bills, merchants and international remittances.
277 million mobile money accounts were registered across Sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2016. The concentration has shifted from East Africa – Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda – to West Africa, where 29 percent of accounts are based (up from 8 percent five years ago).
“Mobile money is now achieving mass-market adoption in all corners of Sub-Saharan Africa, enabling millions of people to access financial services for the first time and contributing to economic growth and social development,” said Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA. “Mobile operators in the region today are using mobile money to create new financial ecosystems that can deliver a range of innovative new services across multiple industry sectors, including utilities and agriculture.”
The GSMA unites 800 mobile operators worldwide with companies in the broader ecosystem, such as handset and device makers, software and Internet companies and equipment providers. It produces major global events such as the Mobile 360 Series, at which the new study was presented this week.