Mobile Money Revolution in Africa: A Game Changer for Unbanked Populations

Kweku Amoabeng Ortsin


Financial inclusion has for several decades remained a major challenge for poor populations in Africa. Due to the high costs associated with banking and financial services in the formal sector, many low-income earners shy away from accessing these services. Also, the high rates of illiteracy cause many Africans to stay away from long-winding bureaucracies in banking and financial institutions. In the last decade, however, much of this narrative has been changing owing to the emergence of the concept of mobile money transfers. The ever-expansive growth in Internet and telecommunication services, as well as the proliferation of smart phones, is serving as a catalyst to revolutionize the financial sector. Starting in Kenya with the deployment of     “M-Pesa” in 2007, the scale-up in mobile money services has now rapidly spread to even cottages and hamlets across the continent. According to the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA), 10% of adults in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) on the average have mobile money accounts. In 2015, the GSMA reported that out of the total of $37.4 million off the counter (OTC) mobile money transactions in the world 28% took place in SSA. In this paper, therefore, the key question asked is whether the preponderance of mobile money services in Africa is a game changer for the problem of financial exclusion? The research approach adopted for the paper is qualitative in nature, making use of secondary sources of data and information. The conclusion, among others, also contains recommendations as to how mobile money services can be enhanced to further meet the needs of unbanked and underserved populations in Africa.

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