Millions join Africa’s mobile banking revolution
Banks and financial service providers across Africa are responding to high demand for mobile bank accounts, with Malawi, Kenya, and Ghana the latest to reveal a raft of new additions to their respective mobile banking industries. In Malawi, families reliant on overseas remittances from friends and relatives working abroad will be able to receive money using their phone, after WorldRemit launched its instant Mobile Money account in the southeast African country. “With only 18 percent of Malawian adults holding formal bank accounts, the only option for most people [receiving money] was to travel to a money transfer agent to collect cash. Malawians can now receive those remittances directly on their phones, at any time of day or night, without needing to wait in line or worry about carrying a lot of cash,” said Alix Murphy, senior mobile analyst at WorldRemit. Despite low levels of bank account activity, there are 2.5 million mobile bank accounts in Malawi. WorldRemit customers also send 450,000 transfers each month and over half the funds the company transfers to Africa is received through its Mobile Money service. Elsewhere, a partnership between Kenya Commercial Bank and national telecoms company Safaricom has disbursed 10.3 billion Kenya Shillings (US$101 million) in microfinance using mobile-based bank accounts in the last 18-months. In addition to pointing to an appetite for short-term loans, the bank and mobile service provider confirmed that the KCB M-Pesa savings account has passed a new milestone after receiving 6.4 million subscriptions and over 286 million Kenya Shillings saved on the platform. “The ubiquitous mobile phone has changed the way financial services are consumed. It has made it cheaper and more convenient for account holders to access their bank accounts,” said Joshua Oigara, chief executive officer (CEO) at Kenya Commercial Bank Group. Mobile banking customers in Ghana could start earning interest of up to 7 percent on their deposits by the end of the year, according to Clarica Kudawor, deputy head of payment systems at the Bank of Ghana. The announcement comes as mobile money transactions in Ghana registered 20 percent growth in the last six-months, to a total of 679.17 million Ghana Cedis (US$172 million). “Considering the interest on flows, yes we would soon give them the green light. Hopefully, by the end of the year, they can start paying,” said Kudawor. One in ten adults in sub-Saharan Africa have a mobile bank account, compared with a 2 percent average globally. Kenya leads the world when it comes to number of users, with 58 percent of people over 15 years old using their mobile to send and receive money.
By Adam Pitt
Photo: Ken Banks