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Nov 15

Mobile Money in Africa: The Mobile-first Continent

By zealousys

Sawubona SA!

Imagine, you are in downtown Nairobi. The environment resembles a futuristic marketplace. People from diverse ethnicities are browsing the market. The guy next to you at the check-out walks out effortlessly with a simple tap on his cell phone followed by a warm smile towards the shop-keeper.

The idea was conceived by western entrepreneurs but has not gained traction with the  western technology users.

Mobile Money in Africa!

Take Kenya as an example, this futuristic mode of cashless & cardless transactions is the norm there. Similarly, other African countries with a sizeable number of mobile money users are as follows:-


[courtesy: Pew Global]

Why is mobile money more acceptable in Africa?

This can be uncovered by certain usage patterns and facts such as:-

In African regions where Mobile Money is popular

  1. It is the only way except paper money to purchase something
  2. Access to banking services/infrastructure is extremely low

Low Internet Penetration ==> Low e-banking and e-commerce usage

Mobile money is simple and convenient as compared to available alternatives

Cultural factors such as:-

  1. Mobile money provides privacy
  2. Opportunity for unbanked to bank their money
  3. Provides an easy mechanism among peers to gather money in the hour of need

The Impact: Leapfrogging

The success of mobile money has led to a bypass over traditional banking concepts. In other words, Africa has managed to leapfrog over bank branches, bank managers, ATMs, credit cards etc.

The key strategy in this success was the inclusion of channel partners. Telcos turned their existing ‘mobile credit sellers’ comprising of:-

  1. Petrol Stations
  2. Bars
  3. General Stores

into a network of ‘mobile money agents’.
Mobile Money: Evolution of Mobile Credit Sellers

Eventually, these ‘Mobile Money Agents’ became the branding hubs for the telcos. To summarize,  Simplicity turned into a revolution.

The Current Status

-Out of 20 top mobile money countries, 15 are in Africa

-About 43% of Kenya’s GDP flows through mpesa

-Mobile Money accounted for 7.6 billion euros’ worth of transactions in 2015

The Takeaway

The Consumer is the king, and convenience is the key. If you are a business operating in Sub-Saharan Africa, you cannot ignore mobile money. In fact, chances are most of your incoming revenue will flow through it.

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