Africa’s mobile money growth propels global services

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 19 Apr 2023

Mobile money services are growing faster than predicted around the globe, with the number of registered mobile money accounts growing by 13% year-on-year, from 1.4 billion in 2021, to 1.6 billion by the end of 2022.

Southern Africa saw 24% year-on-year growth to reach 781 million registered accounts and 18 million active mobile money accounts last year.

This is according to the GSM Association’s (GSMA's) annual State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money 2023, published this week.

Published annually by the GSMA and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the report points out the rate of adoption of mobile money services is accelerating faster than expected, boosted by increased adoption in Africa, as digital services continue to rise in popularity.

In 2022, global mobile money exceeded industry expectations, reaching a transaction value of $1.26 trillion, it says.

While it took the global industry 17 years to reach the first 800 million customers, this is extremely significant growth as it has taken only five years to reach the next 800 million, it notes.

According to the report, in 2022, Southern Africa’s active mobile money accounts transacted an estimated $836 billion in value.

West Africa reported 290 million registered accounts, with 76 million active 30-day accounts in 2022, while East Africa had 390 million registered accounts, with 115 million active accounts in the same time period.

North Africa had 18 million registered accounts by the end of last year and one million active accounts, according to the report.

“Some of the key contributors to the growth of mobile money in the past few years have been regulatory changes in large markets,” comments Mats Granryd, director-general of the GSMA and a member of the board.

“In Nigeria, for example, new licences have seen many new mobile money players emerge, and with this, a 41% growth in the number of registered agents. Not only has this created employment for millions of new agents, but mobile money services are now accessible to more people in Africa’s largest economy. It has also been encouraging to see mobile money is contributing to closing the financial inclusion gender gap.”

According to the World Bank, more women than men now own a mobile money account in at least seven countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

While there is a lot more work to be done in this space, Granryd believes this is a hugely positive advancement – when women have access to mobile phones and mobile money, they can increase their economic independence and strengthen their role as financial decision-makers.

[PICTURE] Mobile money GSMA infographic – figure 4 page 16

In 2022, daily global transactions via mobile money reached $3.45 billion, exceeding the $3 billion amount predicted in 2021, notes the GSMA. The global total transaction value for mobile money grew by 22% between 2021 and 2022, from $1 trillion to around $1.26 trillion.

The 2023 report shows the number of mobile money agents also increased significantly last year, with a 41% increase between 2021 and 2022, growing from 12 million in 2021, to 17.4 million in 2022.

Mobile money agents are the face of the industry globally and are responsible for on-boarding and educating hundreds of millions of customers.

They were responsible for digitising $294 million (total cash-in transactions), up 17% from 2021. Nearly two-thirds of all incoming transactions are cash-ins performed by agents.

However, in many areas worldwide, more work is still needed to help give underserved communities access to safe, secure and affordable financial services, notes the report.

"It is promising to see the continued growth of mobile money worldwide. Mobile money has afforded millions of unbanked and underserved people in low- and middle-income countries access to digital financial services, for the first time," states Max Cuvellier, GSMA head of mobile for development.

"However, even with this significant growth, there is still a long way to go to bring those services to over a billion people worldwide who remain unbanked. The GSMA is therefore encouraging governments worldwide to keep developing the enabling policies that can support mobile money deployments and further boost the growth of this crucial ecosystem.”