More people have mobile money accounts than bank accounts in at least nine African countries, up from four in 2012. And the continent as a whole leads the world in the adoption of financial services on the mobile platform. In Rwanda, Uganda, and Ghana, mobile service provider MTN has taken the lead by launching ATMs where customers can withdraw cash from their MTN Money accounts without a bank card (they send a message, then receive a one-time-use PIN on their phone). Other mobile service operators are also vying to release innovations to help customers pay for things without cash, receive money from abroad, and obtain micro loans and insurance products.
Chidi Okpala, Director of Airtel Money says, “This is a first in market initiative across Africa and will enable Airtel Money customers to send, receive and withdraw money from their Airtel Money wallets, this is a key milestone for Airtel Money customers because a big virtual barrier has been removed and our customers will be able to transact with ease across national borders. The service will extend convenience by way of cost efficiency and reach while facilitating remittances and small trades within East Africa”
Now, banks are developing savings services that will leverage the reach of mobile. Pan-African lender Ecobank has plans to roll out mobile-based lending and savings services. The Togo-based bank plans to set up mobile savings accounts with MTN Mobile Money in a dozen countries around Africa.
But some countries are still dragging their heels. In Sudan, for example, even basic mobile financial services are only just starting to gain traction. Elsewhere, there are concerns about how to regulate these services.
In Nigeria, for instance, there is an ongoing battle between the central bank and the telecoms regulator over who should regulate the mobile platforms, according to Mr Bodo of Ecobank.
The problem is that many banks have seen the launch of financial services by telecoms companies as unfair competition because, typically, these new service providers are not as tightly regulated as the banks themselves. Attitudes are changing, but it is a gradual shift.
Nigeria’s e-commerce market alone generates $3 million worth of transactions per week, and online transactions are expected to cross $9 billion by the end of 2017. Interestingly, the fears regarding economy recession are driving more people to shop online and stay at home. What’s your take on this new and unique development?
Drop your comments about your mobile money experience.