Sub-Saharan Africa gained 50 million new mobile money accounts in 2019, raising the total number of registered accounts in the region to 469 million.
With this figure, the region retained its status as the largest mobile money region in the world, according to the 2019 GSMA Mobile Money Report.
The total number of registered mobile money accounts in the world surpassed the 1 billion milestone in 2019. Also, the average global daily transaction hit $2 billion.
The GSMA report forecasts that account adoption across Sub-Saharan Africa will remain strong and that the region will surpass the half billion mark by the end of 2020.
West Africa has over 160 million mobile money accounts
West Africa has a total of 163 million mobile money account with 56 million out of it active. The sub-region has 59 mobile money services, the highest in the Sub-Saharan Africa region.
It recorded about 4.8 billion transaction volume and an impressive $130 billion in transaction value. However, East Africa still remains number 1 in the region with 249 million registered accounts and $293.4 billion in value.
Generally in the region, the number of active mobile money accounts was pegged at 181 million. This was up 15.3 % of the total recorded in 2018. The total volume of transactions was 23.8 billion while the total value of transaction rose by 27.5% to $456.3 billion.
Internet and smartphone penetration driving adoption
With an adult population of 114 million and an unbanked population of 60%, Nigeria has a large market for mobile money services.
Over the past years, the service has been gaining traction in the country as increase in smartphone penetration from 12 to 40% has helped push its adoption in the country.
Globally, 1.7 billion people remain financially excluded
Majorly the high financial inflow which came into the sector last year with the funds raised by Interswitch, OPay, PalmPay and Flutterwave among others help mobile money scale.
The investment by Visa into Interswitch – making it Africa’s first fintech unicorn – exemplified the momentum that had been building over two decades.
Agents still the backbone of adoption
In a country like Nigeria where cash is still a major form of transaction, agents are the main leverage driving mobile money adoption.
The ease with which agents provide convenient and trusted ways of converting cash to a digital value and vice versa is a major aphrodisiac that draws adoption.
In 2019, the digital transaction represented 57% of mobile money flow globally. A majority even exceeding cash in/out values. However, $176 billion of the digital transactions was digitised by mobile money agents.
The number of mobile money agent outlet was recorded to be about 7.7 million in 2019, which is almost triple the numbers recorded 5 years ago. Also, for every 100,000 people, there are about 11 Banks, 33 ATMs and 228 Mobile money agents.
The neighbourhood setting of agent outlets allows them have 7 times the reach of ATMs and 20 times the reach of bank branches.
Mobile money-enabled credit
Lack of financial records is one of the main reasons why a large proportion of financially underserved Nigerians are excluded from formal lending. From the hawker who strolls the streets to the mechanic who repairs cars, a significant percentage of them still don’t have a bank account and those that do hardly carry out transactions through it to have a visible financial record.
This often disqualifies them from formal lending. The 2017 Global Findex report found that nearly 44 per cent of all adults in developing countries borrow money but just 9% borrow from a financial institution.
In June 2019, the value of digital loans processed by reached at least $390 million
According to the report, mobile money is bridging this information gap between borrowers and financial institutions, and helping individuals and MSMEs benefit from the opportunities that access to credit creates.
Mobile money-enabled savings
Mobile money is changing the way people save. A wage earner who receives cash can now easily meet a cash agent on his way home to save in his account, instead of taking it home.
In June 2019, over $241 million was transferred to mobile money-enabled savings accounts, enough for over 600,000 women in low-income countries to start a business.
Also, at least 26 million unique customers saved through mobile money, a 39% increase from 2018. This trend suggests a digital savings culture propagated by mobile money.
The growth of mobile money in 2019 was impressive and is expected to continue. GSMA report forecasts that the annual transaction performed using mobile money should surpass $1 trillion dollars by 2023. This appears more feasible with the current global pandemic forcing more digital inclined transaction. Generally, the 2019 report showed that digital financial transactions are becoming part of everyday life for more and more people.