If you’re using a mobile phone in sub-Saharan Africa, you’re part of a wave of growth and innovation in the continent.
With some 420m mobile subscribers in the region, a number that’s expected to grow to more than half a billion in three years’ time, mobile is leading the way for financial services, says the GSM Association (GSMA).
Already there are more mobile money accounts in sub-Saharan Africa than there are traditional bank accounts, says the global trade body for mobile providers.
Of the 277 mobile money services available earlier this year, when the report was published, around 140 of them are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the GSMA, and it’s countries in west Africa that are powering their use.
More than 40% of adults in seven African countries are using mobile money regularly, says the report: Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
That the adoption of mobile money in sub-Saharan Africa has outpaced the rest of the world comes as no surprise, of course: African countries have generally been mobile-first.
Roxanne Bauer noted for the World Bank back in 2015: “In places with bad roads or unreliable land lines, mobile phones allow people to determine price data, reach wider markets, participate in mobile money, and obtain news and entertainment.”
While the move towards mobile money started with simple airtime top-ups and direct person-to-person payments, the sector has become a vibrant one offering a number of other financial services, from bill payments to remittances, says the report.
That in turn has driven financial inclusion in the region, adds the report, which notes that “the gender gap in respect to mobile money usage in sub-Saharan Africa is less pronounced: at 19.5%, this is almost half the average for all low- and middle-income countries”.