How to manage all your financial affairs from a $20 mobile phone

Christopher Hughes

Where mobile money accounts outnumber bank accounts in Africa.

Where mobile money accounts outnumber bank accounts in Africa.

Quartz, the digitally native business news outlet, published today an article by Leo Mirani about “how mobile money is taking over the world — and turning mobile phones into a platform for financial services.”

“I feel like a caveman who’s just been handed a Bic lighter,” reported Charles Graeber, a writer for Bloomberg Businessweek who recently went to Nairobi to check out M-Pesa, Kenya’s dominant mobile-money provider.

The article points out that Kenya is no longer even the leader in mobile money, and had Graeber instead traveled to neighboring Tanzania, he’d have discovered 44 percent of adults there used some form of mobile money in 2013—ahead of Kenya’s 38 percent:

Last December alone, Tanzanians conducted 99.9 million transactions worth a combined 3.1 trillion Tanzanian shillings ($1.8 billion). That’s all the more impressive considering only 14 percent of Tanzanian adults use banks, less than half the rate in Kenya, and on a par with Zambia towards the bottom of the table.

What’s more, in nine African countries — Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe — mobile-money accounts now outnumber bank accounts. The deep penetration of mobile money has attracted companies which allow businesses to easily accept mobile payments and keep track of them online. For example, it is increasingly popular in Tanzania and Kenya, the countries with the highest penetration of mobile money. Quartz highlights that governments are noticing, too and last year the Tanzania Revenue Authority began to allow citizens to pay vehicle licensing fees through mobile money, which according to the authority, was a success with collections increasing 50 percent in the three weeks after the change and has the additional benefit of combating corruption since it reduces contact with officials:

“You’re beginning to see that bringing down costs and improving efficiency is creating opportunities for people at all levels,” says John Owens, a mobile money policy expert at the Alliance for Financial Inclusion. Providers are also coming up with better software that allow businesses to pay their employees using mobile enabled e-money, he says. “And once you’ve got people receiving money, including their salaries, in their e-money accounts, it’s much easier for businesses to start accepting it and creating these opportunities and e-payment eco-systems.” The more money there is in the system, the more ways there will be to spend it.

Click here for the full story at Quartz

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christopher Hughes is the Online Communications Manager at the Alliance for Financial Inclusion.

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