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Mobile money accounts breach 1bn mark

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During 2019, mobile money services reached a milestone, surpassing one billion accounts globally.

This is according to GSMA, which yesterday unveiled the annual “State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money”, offering a view of the mobile money landscape and highlighting the impact greater financial inclusion has on lives, economies and innovation, especially in emerging markets.

The report highlights that 2019 marked a major milestone for the mobile money industry, with over one billion registered accounts and close to $2 billion in daily transactions.

It explores the empowerment that comes with owning a mobile money account; for example, more women are using financial services, low-income households are accessing essential utility services, and smallholder farmers are getting paid more quickly and conveniently.

Meanwhile, it adds, millions of migrants and their families are experiencing the life-changing benefits of faster, safer and cheaper international remittances, and humanitarian cash assistance is being delivered more thoughtfully to those in crises.

With 290 live services in 95 countries and 372 million active accounts, mobile money is entering the mainstream and becoming the path to financial inclusion in most low-income countries, says GSMA.

For the first time, says GSMA, digital transactions represented the majority (57%) of mobile money interactions. The industry is witnessing increasing user trust and relevance, it notes.

Mats Granryd, director general of GSMA, says: “2019 was a momentous year for the mobile money industry. With over a billion registered accounts and close to $2 billion in daily transactions, mobile money is evolving like never before.

“Originally a product for a few select markets, mobile money is now a global phenomenon, recording astonishing growth in emerging markets and reaching a broad range of customers.”

Granryd points out that for the first time, digital transactions represented the majority of mobile money flows, and more value is circulating in the mobile money system than before.

“For customers, this marks a shift away from cash towards digital payments – for school fees, e-commerce, international remittances, savings, credit, pay-as-you-go utilities and more. For the industry, it is evidence the ‘payments-as-a-platform’ model – a strategic shift by the industry to encourage more value to remain digital and to diversify revenue models – is paying off.”

“Increased mobile connectivity and innovative services such as mobile money are building stronger and more inclusive communities,” says John Giusti, chief regulatory officer at GSMA.

“Surpassing one billion mobile money accounts represents a major milestone for an industry that did not exist just over a decade ago. The reach of mobile money agents is now 20 times that of bricks-and-mortar banks. Almost 1.7 billion people remain financially excluded, but the collective strength of the industry holds the potential to ensure everyone can be part of the new digital economy.”

Giusti adds: “Regulation that enables low-cost services for the financially excluded has been crucial to the success of mobile money, and there is a clear correlation between an enabling regulatory environment and a high mobile money adoption rate.”

However, he notes, certain policy decisions, such as sector-specific taxation and data localisation requirements, are putting pressure on the industry and create a real risk of long-term negative impacts on financial inclusion gains, access to innovative services, and delivery of the sustainable development goals.

“We are moving in the right direction, and with the right tools, we are a step closer to achieving an inclusive digital future for all,” Giusti concludes.

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