Mobile money use surge heralds new era for Africa

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Africa’s financial inclusion journey has grown in leaps and bounds since 2011 the level of inclusivity in Sub-Saharan Africa was just over 23 per cent.

As of 2018, the World Bank Global Financial Inclusion Database showed that in 2017, 42.6 per cent of all adults in the region had an account with a banking or financial institution. This growth was largely driven by digital financial services where according to Findex, mobile money accounts almost doubled to 21 per cent while the share of adults with a financial institution account barely budged.

In comparison to other regions of the world, mobile money use was lower than 10 per cent.

Read: Banks in Africa hasten use of technology for financial inclusion

And this growth is continually attracting investments in the region to reach the financially excluded populations.

Standard Chartered Bank and Airtel Africa have announced a strategic collaboration to drive financial inclusion across key markets in Africa by providing customers with increased access to mobile financial services.

Through the collaboration, Standard Chartered and Airtel Africa will work together to co-create new, innovative products aimed at enhancing the accessibility of financial services and, ultimately, better serve people across Africa.

In line with this, Airtel Money’s customers will be able to make real-time online deposits and withdrawals from Standard Chartered bank accounts, receive international money transfers directly to their wallets, and access savings products amongst other services.

Standard Chartered’s corporate clients will also be able to make rapid and secure bulk disbursements, such as payroll payments, directly into the Airtel Money customer’s wallet.

This reduces the risks associated with travelling long distances for cash payments and instead customers can go to any Airtel Money agent, kiosk, or branch to cash-out their funds.

Commenting on the collaboration, Sunil Kaushal, Regional CEO, Africa and Middle East said: “By collaborating with innovative organisations like Airtel Africa, we are accelerating our mobile and digital-led strategy to provide best in class financial services to Africa. Over the past year, Standard Chartered has rapidly launched digital banks across 9 countries on the continent, allowing our customers to enjoy seamless services from the safety of their homes even during the peak of the pandemic. This partnership will further enhance the ability of our customers to manage and move money safely and securely and create market-leading financial solutions across countries.”

Read also: Rooting for sustainable finance in Africa

The recent announcement is another step taken by Standard Chartered to further extend its reach and enhance its unique product offering. By partnering with mobile wallet providers, the bank has expanded its network into markets where mobile wallets are prevalent, offer solutions that enable corporate and institutional clients to leverage the opportunities presented by mobile money and enable efficient, scalable e-commerce and m-commerce solutions.

This partnership supports Airtel Africa’s efforts to expand the range and depth of its Airtel Money offerings across its 19 million customer base, with new products and services helping to promote the wider adoption of mobile money and increasing financial inclusion.

Raghunath Mandava, CEO, Airtel Africa, said: “Our relationship with Standard Chartered boosts financial inclusion across the continent, giving millions of people access to valuable banking services. We continue to invest heavily in cashing in and cashing out locations for our customers and increase our distribution. This means that our customers can now send or receive digital payments via Standard Chartered Bank directly to their mobile phones, as well as cash-out their funds at our exclusive kiosks and branches at their convenience. This highlights Airtel Africa’s commitment to providing affordable, innovative, best-in-class solutions to enhance the daily lives of our customers.”

Mobile banking transfers between Airtel Money and Standard Chartered Bank are now live in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Remaining products will be rolled out later this year subject to regulatory approvals.

Africa, Financial inclusion, Sub-Saharan Africa, World Bank, Global Financial Inclusion Database, Findex, Mobile money accounts, Standard Chartered Bank, Airtel Africa,

A mobile money service in progress. Many investors are targeting the sector which has helped expand financial inclusion in Sub Saharan Africa. [Photo/ Enterprise.press]

Following the Covid-19 spread globally, mobile money use significantly surged in Africa.

Kenya, the mobile money transfer hub, saw most operators waive some service charges where person-to-person (P2P) transactions and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) benefited from the move.

This move enabled millions of Kenyans to embrace mobile money even more which helped reduce cash transactions thus lowering the chances of spreading the virus.

The upside of this adoption has seen mobile money facilitate the continued functioning of Africa’s retail sector where online shopping has also grown significantly.

From the pandemic, it is evident that mobile money’s full potential is yet to be realised to accelerate financial inclusion in African nations.

By tapping the underbanked or unbanked, mobile money can increase access to financial services by those whom the banking sector has not covered.

Read: Digital banking key in boosting financial inclusion

I have 10 years of experience in multimedia journalism and I use the skills I have gained over this time to meet and ensure goal-surpassing editorial performance. Africa is my business and development on the continent is my heartbeat. Do you have a development story that has to be told? Reach me at njenga.h@theexchange.africa and we can showcase Africa together.

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