Mobile Money Accounts Hit 1.2 Billion

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The GSMA, the global association that represents the interest of mobile network operators, in its latest annual industry publication titled: ‘State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money,’ has revealed an acceleration in mobile transactions last year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic as lockdown restrictions limited access to cash and financial institutions.

The report found that the number of registered accounts grew by 13 per cent globally in 2020, to more than 1.2 billion, which doubled the forecast.

According to the report, the fastest growth was recorded in markets where governments provided significant pandemic relief to their citizens.

The report stated that to minimise the economic toll of COVID-19, many national governments distributed monetary support to individuals and businesses.

“The value of government-to-person payments quadrupled during the pandemic, with the mobile money industry working hand-in-hand with administrations and NGOs to distribute social protection and humanitarian payments quickly, securely, and efficiently to those in need.

“Facilitating this type of direct income support payments is one example of how mobile money provides a financial lifeline to underserved communities. Mobile money providers have also provided in-kind support, including the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitising gel at agent counters,” the GSMA stated in the report.

Analysing the report, the GSMA’s Chief Regulatory Officer, John Giusti, said: “We see that mobile money is a powerful tool for expanding the financial inclusion of women in low- and middle-income countries. “This year’s report, however, found that across markets, women are still 33 per cent less likely than men to have a mobile money account.

“The GSMA and its members are committed to closing this gender gap by addressing the barriers that prevent women from accessing and using mobile financial services.”

According to him, closing the gap would require a collaborative and concerted effort, since many providers have committed to increasing the proportion of female customers. “One example of an innovative approach to this is launching micro-entrepreneur products that can be used in markets where women represent the majority of vendors and customers,” Giusti said.

Addressing the increase in global financial equality, the report stated that for the first time, more than $1 billion was sent and received in the form of remittances globally every month via mobile money.

Despite early fears that transactions would decline as people worldwide suffered job losses and income cuts during the pandemic, it remains clear that those in the diaspora continue to support family and friends back home. As a result, the total value of transactions increased by 65 per cent to an annual total of $12.7 billion in 2020, the report added.

It further said that in working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the GSMA remained committed to reducing inequalities among countries when sending money internationally. According to GSMA’s research, mobile money provides an affordable channel for connecting people to vital financial resources.

The mobile money ecosystem has been strengthened by an increasing number of strategic partnerships established between money transfer organisations and mobile money providers.

In the area of driving regulatory change, the report explained that as the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted people’s lives and weakened economies, regulators responded with a variety of measures aimed at reducing the impact.

The research found that the pandemic gave fresh urgency to the need for regulatory change to facilitate greater digitalisation. In many markets, transaction limits were increased to allow more funds to flow through mobile money.

Additionally, as demand rose for non-physical payments, some regulators classified mobile money agents and their supply chains as essential services, the report stated.

It added that over 50 per cent of mobile money agents were continuously active throughout the pandemic, which was crucial for service continuity and maintaining liquidity.