Mobile financial services in Africa: Winning the battle for the customer
Africa is the global leader in mobile money, which has become an important component of Africa’s financial services landscape.
Mobile network operators (MNOs) have dominated mobile money services in Africa for the past decade. More recently, fintechs have established a solid footing in the market, and a number of banks are beginning to compete aggressively for the mobile banking customer. While some banks have chosen to “go it alone”, others are forming partnerships in hopes of reaching the market faster. This article outlines five paths banks can take to retain ground in the battle for the mobile customer in Africa.
Africa is the global leader in mobile money
Mobile financial services (MFS) span the full spectrum of financial services, from payments and current accounts, to savings, loans, investments, and insurance. Mobile money, which enables customers to send, receive, and store money using their mobile phone, is a subset of MFS that is provided mainly by telco companies. The underlying funds are typically held by a bank in a dedicated stored value account or a linked current account.
Just over half of the 282 mobile money services operating worldwide are located in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the GSMA. In Africa today, there are 100 million active mobile money accounts (used by one in 10 African adults). This far exceeds customer adoption in South Asia, the second-biggest region for mobile money in terms of market share, with 40 million active mobile money accounts (used by 2.6% of adults)(Exhibit 1).
Mobile money now extends far beyond Safaricom’s initial M-Pesa offering, which enabled consumers and small businesses – many of which had little or no access to a bank – to send and receive money quickly and securely across great distances. Today, mobile financial services have expanded to include a broad array of financial services, including credit, insurance, and cross-border remittances, and M-Pesa now accounts for less than a quarter of MFS users in Africa.
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