Wow….mobile money, a brand new ‘sector’ that began only six to seven years ago, is something that everybody seems to be talking about. There are 250+ platforms in developing countries and numerous institutions/initiatives such as Gates Foundation, G20, USAID and many others have rapidly rushed in trying to find how best to leverage this exciting payments/finance distribution channel on behalf of development and financial inclusion. Most of these 250+ platforms have not yet turned a profit and yet there are forecasts that foreign direct investment will start up another 100+ platforms in the near future which portrays the perceived potential by investors. In addition, almost all of the current platforms have been confined to the large urban city centers but now the industry of mobile financial service providers (e.g. MTN, Tigo, Safaricom, Airtel, etc.) is looking to expand into rural areas in pursuit of nationwide penetration to hit their break-evens and ROI. It seems, though, that rural rollouts of mobile money will present some challenges such as illiteracy as well as financial and digital illiteracy. Another challenge is the lack of population density.
I’ve done rural mobile money implementation and research in Zambia, Malawi, Uganda, Ghana, Indonesia, Tanzania and elsewhere and there are some innovators that are blazing the trail that we should all learn from that includes SmartMoney-Uganda/Tanzania. Farmers have seen mobile money from afar and are becoming impatient to also participate in this new channel. In the words of a cotton mobile payment strategic alliance partner in Zambia “there is currently an arms race among large commodity buyers to have the fastest speed of payment to farmers.” My client CTA has published this 8-page brief as a preamble to their upcoming landmark study about this topic.
Within the mobile financial services industry it seems many consider 2015 as the start of the next generation of mobile money …..in rural areas. I wonder if others in the Practitioner Hub have seen such rollouts and, if so, can share what they’ve seen. Looking forward to learning from your inputs…………..