Mobile Money is described as mobile payments system based on accounts held by a mobile operator and is accessible from subscribers of mobile phones. Cash is converted into electronic value and vice versa and this mainly happens at retail stores or agents. It is therefore possible to send money between mobile money accounts issued by any mobile money provider, online in real time, at a low cost. That is what mobile money is in layman’s terms and Africa has embraced this concept successfully.
Across the African region, mobile money plays a key role in extending financial services to people with limited access to traditional financial institutions, particularly women and rural populations. Mobile money is a revolution that has empowered tens of millions of people in some of the poorest communities in the world.
Having travelled central Africa, east and west Africa in recent months mobile money is visible everywhere in these markets. The question that came to my mind is: How ready is Namibia for Mobile money? How significant is it for Namibia in terms of growth and job creation? What can it do to our ailing economy and high unemployment rate? I researched a few countries in Africa and share my findings.
According to Ghana Business and Finance magazine, 13 billion (Ghanaian Cedi) is accrued from mobile money transactions in Ghana every month, making Ghana the leader in West Africa (World Bank Global Findex Survey 2017 Report). About 82 million transactions are realised daily from mobile money transfers while the number of registered and active mobile money agents currently stands at 151,000 about 25 percent increase since 2012. Meaning 151,000 businesses/agents were created instantly.
A Ghanaian expert in Digital Markets said the substantial progress made by Ghana in Mobile money services has seen West African Country catching up with Tanzania which is ranked seventh in Africa. In terms of mobile money, Kenya is still the leader in Africa with nearly 80 per cent of adults made or receive digital payments which is almost twice the developing world average of 44 per cent of adults. According to this expert, the regulatory revision of the financial services acts gives more priority to payment systems which contributed to the growth of mobile money services (Ghana Business and Finance magazine 2018).
Then there is Mobile Money Interoperability. Ghana recorded in one month 12.458 million (GHS), between mobile operators. Fund transfer from one mobile network to another have witnessed consistent growth in the value and volume of transactions since mobile money Interoperability was launched on 10 May 2018. In the 1st month of operations, mobile money Interoperability recorded a total 136,469 transfers valued at about 12.458 million (GHS), according to data from Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GHIPSS). This was achieved on the back of wallet to wallet and wallet to bank transfers. Total wallet to wallet transactions reached 96,904 with a value of GH8,310 million while that of wallet to bank was 39,665, amounting to GH4.148 million.
With the launch of the mobile money interoperability, customers are now able to transfer funds from one mobile money wallet to another wallet across networks.
Another case study by Toby Shapschack, Forbes Magazines (2018), M-Pesa, Kenya’s mobile operator, has 28.5-million users in East Africa who now transact with Western Union’s 500,000 global agents in over 200 countries. M-Pesa has revolutionised mobile transacting, first in Kenya where it was launched by Safaricom in 2007, then into the rest of East Africa and now into West Africa. For the three months to June 2018, M-Pesa processed 581-million transactions for its 23-million Kenyan subscribers, worth US$14,6-billion or US$162-million a day, according to the Communications Authority of Kenya. 21 percent of adults in Kenya have a mobile money account this is easily the highest compared to any region in the world.
According to GSM Association, over half of all mobile money services in the world are in Sub-Saharan Africa, which remains the fastest-growing mobile market in the world. The region is expected to have 500-million cellphone subscribers by 2020. Quoting figures from the World Bank, Western Unions said Kenya is a net remittance receiver of USD2-billion, while outbound remittances were US$36-million, which were both a 13 percent year-over-year rise in 2017.
Namibia can learn from these African giants, unemployment in Namibia remains at a staggering high. The opportunity lies in increasing and rendering of telecommunication services thereby creating jobs. This is in line with our Harambe prosperity plan. The focus should be on job creation focusing on SME development whether it be through telecommunications, boosting of vegetable export transactions etc. Opportunities continue to exist through mobile money from whichever angle. Namibia’s large unbanked population means the country is fertile ground for much bigger things. East and West Africa has done it, so can Namibia. Mobile money market in Africa is proving lucrative, and it still has ample room to grow. Namibia and Namibians can cash into this market. There are so many success stories to share.
*Irene Simeon-Kurtz is the current Acting chairperson of Telecom Namibia, Chairperson of PowerCom, entrepreneur and businesswoman in fuel and lubricant retail. She has a master’s degree in International Business, Honours degree in Public Policy and Governance and just completed her Master’s in Public Admin majoring in Public Policy and Governance at the University of Stellenbosch School of Public Management. The opinions expressed in this article is researched and that of her own and do not represent views of any of my business associates.