Africa leads in mobile money deployment as users hit over 40 million

Mobile appThe United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) says Africa is leading the trend with 51 mobile money systems in place, and as many as 37 of the deployments being in least developed countries (LDCs).

“Mobile money deployments have taken off in the past two years. According to data from the GSM Association, some 109 such deployments had been implemented as of April 2011, spanning all developing regions. Only 11 of these are in developed countries. Africa is leading the trend with 51 mobile money systems in place, and as many as 37 of the deployments are in least developed countries (LDCs),” said the report titled “Information Economy Report 2011: ICTs as an Enabler for Private Sector Development.”

The report released October 19, 2011 adds that “There are now more than 40 million users, according to the providers from whom subscription data are available.”

According to the report, the rapid expansion of mobile money systems is creating new opportunities for small-micro enterprises (SMEs) – particularly in low-income countries – to access financial services.

UNCTAD said mobile money is providing increased access to finance for SMEs, which traditionally have been poorly served by existing lending institutions.

“Banking through mobile phones allows for real-time transfer and the receipt of small amounts of funds at low cost. They can reduce the costs of processing and administering small loans, thereby alleviating a significant disincentive for lenders to extend credit to SMEs,” it said.

The report stressed that existing mobile money systems can become even better if adapted to meet the needs of small businesses saying “Basic money transfer or payment functions can have a major impact on the way small enterprises operate – they can enable them to better manage their cash flow and expedite the delivery of supplies and goods.”

It called on governments to pioneer new legislation and regulations for mobile money and urged the international community to actively support the development of sound regulatory frameworks and relevant institutions, as well as facilitate the exchange of practice and expertise.

“Governments and their central banks should explore ways to absorb small enterprises into the mainstream by means of mobile-based commercial and financial transactions,” it said.

In Ghana, MTN, Tigo and Airtel are the telecommunication firms offering the mobile money services.

By Ekow Quandzie

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