While most regions in Africa are recording significant uptake of mobile money, the West African region is lagging behind, according to a new report.
East Africa in particular has recorded significant growth of mobile money services, largely because of expanding usage in Tanzania and Kenya, while many West African countries have been slow to seize the opportunity presented by such applications, according to "Mobile Money in the Ebola Crisis," by Mondato, a mobile financial services industry research and advisory company.
In the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia less than three out of every five people have mobile phones. This situation is limiting the utilization of mobile money services in these countries, the report said. People who do have mobile phones seem to use mobile money. In Sierra Leone, the report said, more than 16, 000 Ebola response workers received their payment via mobile money.
Meanwhile, Nigeria, Africa’s largest telecom market, has a huge addressable population and a large number of mobile phone deployments, but has low levels of adoption and usage, the report said.
“Ghana is the regional star pupil but up to now the ecosystem was confounded by a quixotic regulatory environment,” the report said.
Outside West Africa, governments in other regions of the continent have crafted favorable regulatory policies that have promoted usage of mobile money services. This has resulted in stiff competition between banks and mobile phone companies. The competition also, however, has resulted in partnerships between banks and mobile phone operators as they try to attract the so-called unbanked population.
Orange Telecom and pan-African banking group Ecobank, for example, last week announced a partnership to roll out a service that will enable Orange money subscribers who also have bank accounts with Ecobank to transfer money between their accounts using mobile phones.
The service has been launched in Mali and will be rolled out in several other African countries including Cameron, Nigeria, Senegal and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).