Mobile money services are growing faster than predicted around the globe, as digital services continue to rise in popularity, according to the GSMA’s annual ‘State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money 2023’.
The report, published annually by the GSMA and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, demonstrates that rates of adoption are even quicker than expected, with the number of registered mobile money accounts growing by 13% year on year, from 1.4 billion in 2021 to 1.6 billion in 2022. While it took the industry 17 years to reach the first 800 million customers, this is extremely significant growth as it has taken just five years to reach the next 800 million.
In 2022, daily transactions via mobile money reached $3.45 billion, exceeding the $3 billion amount predicted in 2021. Total transaction value for mobile money grew by an incredible 22% between 2021 and 2022, from $1 trillion to around $1.26 trillion.
However, in many areas worldwide, more work is still needed to help give underserved communities access to safe, secure and affordable financial services. With 1.4 billion people worldwide remaining unbanked, the GSMA Mobile Money Programme is working with mobile operators and industry stakeholders worldwide to create a robust mobile money ecosystem, increasing the relevancy and utility of these services and ensuring their sustainability.
The 2023 report shows there are now 315 live mobile money deployments across the globe, with peer to peer (P2P) transfers and cash-in/cash-out transactions still among the most popular use cases. Bill payments using mobile money grew by 36% year-on-year – faster than any other use case – and the industry continues to focus on use case diversification, playing an important role in digitising economies.
Regulatory changes have been a key factor driving mobile money growth, particularly in large markets such as Nigeria, where new licenses have led to many new mobile money players and a 41% growth in registered agents. This has increased accessibility to mobile money services in Africa’s largest economy and created employment for millions of new agents.
The report also shows that mobile money contributes to closing the financial inclusion gender gap. In at least seven countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, more women than men own a mobile money account, providing increased economic independence and strengthening their role as financial decision-makers.
Mobile money has also become a key savings channel, with around 60% of mobile money providers offering users a savings account in 2022, up from half in 2021. According to the World Bank Global Findex 2021, 15% of adults in Sub-Saharan Africa, or 39% of all mobile money account owners in the region, saved using a mobile money account.
While regulation has been aimed at ensuring payment systems remain safe and efficient while encouraging innovation, it has also presented several challenges, such as taxes on mobile money transactions and fees that do not align with financial inclusion objectives. Fraud also remains industry-wide issue regulators are trying to overcome through improved consumer awareness and capacity building.
Africa is currently experiencing a surge in growth, with registered accounts reaching 781 million, a 17% increase, and active accounts reaching 219 million, a 15% increase. Transaction volume and value have also increased by 21% and 22%, respectively, reaching 836.5 bn USD transaction value.
Several markets experienced consolidation in 2022, including the closure of Société Générale’s mobile money service in seven markets, the acquisition of MIC Tanzania PLC by a consortium led by Axian Group and Tanzanian entrepreneur Rostam Aziz, Telenor’s divestment from Wave (Myanmar), and Africell’s sale of its Uganda assets to Seacom while preparing to launch mobile money services in Angola in early 2023.
Mobile money is having a significant impact on Africa in several ways. First and foremost, it contributes to financial inclusion by providing access to financial services to millions of previously unbanked individuals. This is especially important in rural and low-income areas where traditional banking services are often unavailable or unaffordable.
In addition to promoting financial inclusion, mobile money is also driving economic growth and job creation. The growth of mobile money services has led to new employment opportunities, particularly for agents who facilitate transactions on behalf of customers. Mobile money also enables individuals and small businesses to participate more fully in the formal economy by providing them with a means of making and receiving payments electronically.
Furthermore, mobile money is playing a critical role in promoting gender equality by helping to close the financial inclusion gender gap. As more women access mobile phones and mobile money services, they can increase their economic independence and strengthen their financial decision-making role.
Despite the many benefits of mobile money, however, the industry still faces regulatory challenges, such as taxation and fraud. Nevertheless, with the continued growth of mobile money services and increased regulatory attention, it is clear that mobile money will play a significant role in Africa’s economic development for years.
As the world increasingly moves on from COVID-19, mobile money services have continued to show resilient growth that was instigated during the pandemic. Up to 400 million accounts were added during the pandemic alone. This rapid uptake is largely due to the technology’s role in enabling millions of people across low- and middle-income countries to access digital financial services. This upward trend continues, with the number of accounts active on a 30-day basis also growing by 13 per cent year-on-year to 401 million in 2022.
The report also shows that, during 2022, mobile money-enabled international remittances grew by 28% year on year – to $22 billion. During the pandemic, many diasporas sent more funds via mobile money to friends and family than ever before. As a result, international remittances grew significantly in both 2020 and 2021, as many senders favoured mobile money for its efficiency, speed, safety and cost-effectiveness. The trend continued in 2022, albeit at a slower rate.
Closing the gender gap
Mobile money is also continuing to drive financial inclusion for the world’s unbanked, particularly amongst women in rural communities, where access to mobile money can play a transformational and empowering role.
However, according to the latest GSMA data, there is still a mobile money gender gap that has shown signs of widening over the last year, particularly in India, Indonesia and Pakistan. Mobile phone ownership is one of the main drivers of the mobile money gender gap, however, a number of other barriers and cultural norms also prevent women from adopting mobile money. As a result, women in low- and middle-income countries are currently 28% less likely than men to own a mobile money account.
Growing agency networks
The number of mobile money agents also increased significantly last year, with a 41% increase between 2021 and 2022. The overall number of agents went from 12 million in 2021 to 17.4 million in 2022. The number of active agents increased by 25% to 7.2 million in 2022. A lot of this growth came from Nigeria, where a more liberal regulatory regime meant an increase in mobile money providers. Agents continued to prove to be an invaluable part of mobile money services and were responsible for two-thirds of all cash-in transactions in 2022.
“It is clear that mobile money is driving financial inclusion around the world. As it continues to grow, it offers an incredible opportunity to reach the 1.4 billion people who still do not have access to financial services.Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA
As we work towards a sustainable and resilient future in which everyone is connected, it is absolutely vital that we also keep working to design safe and secure financial services for all.”
Mobile money has experienced tremendous growth over the past two decades, entering new markets, forging new industry partnerships, and offering a range of innovative products and services. It is helping millions of people pay their bills, send money abroad, manage their savings, and access social support. Mobile money offers safe, accessible, and affordable services – powering digital finance for all.Ashley Olson Onyango, Head of Financial Inclusion and Agritech, GSMA
It is promising to see the continued growth of mobile money worldwide. Mobile money has afforded millions of unbanked and underserved people in low- and middle- income countries access to digital financial services, for the first time. However, even with this significant growth, there is still a long way to go to bring those services to over a billion people worldwide who remain unbanked. The GSMA is therefore encouraging governments worldwide to keep developing the enabling policies that can support mobile money deployments and further boost the growth of this crucial ecosystem. Doing so helps accelerate the digitization of national economies and build financial resilience, allowing communities to support themselves in uncertain times.Max Cuvellier, Head of Mobile for Development, GSMA
If you intend to find out more, you can download the 2023 State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money here.