Active mobile money accounts stand at 103 million globally

Business News of Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Source: The chronicle

Ismail Ahmed CEO WorldRemit

GSMA, an association of mobile operators and related companies devoted to supporting the standardizing, deployment and promotion of the GSM mobile telephone system has announced that the number of registered Mobile Money accounts globally, now stand at 299 million of which 103 million are active.

In its latest report entitled: ‘2014 State of the Industry Mobile Financial Services for the Unbanked’ released yesterday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, it noted that in 2014, 75 million additional mobile money accounts were opened globally, bringing the total to 299 million at the end of December.

Though growth in the number of registered mobile money accounts has been significant in the past couple of years, almost doubling since 2012 when it was 155 million, it only represents a penetration of 8% of mobile connections in markets where mobile money is available, highlighting a huge potential for further growth.

Of all regions, Sub-Saharan Africa records the highest level of mobile money penetration. By December 2014, 23.0% of mobile connections in Sub-Saharan Africa were linked with a mobile money account, whereas Smartphone connections only represented 16.4%24 of total mobile connections in this region, according to the report.

It stated: “In East Africa, the contrast is even starker with almost one mobile money account for every two mobile connections, compared to a Smartphone penetration of only 12.5%.

While the process to open a mobile money account is very different from buying a smartphone, this comparison gives an idea of the prevalence of mobile money as compared to other fast-growing products and services”.

Furthermore, the number of mobile money accounts is also growing rapidly outside Sub-Saharan Africa, driven by the development of enabling regulatory environments, new launches and increased investments by service providers.

The highest growth was seen in Latin America & the Caribbean, where the number of accounts grew by 50% between December 2013 and December 2014 to reach 14.9 million, the report stated.

Mobile money is bringing financial services to millions of previously unbanked and under-banked people around the world, making this industry a key enabler of financial inclusion.

At the end of 2013, there were already more registered mobile money accounts than banks accounts in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In 2014, Burundi, Guinea, Lesotho, Paraguay, Rwanda, the Republic of the Congo and Swaziland passed this threshold, bringing it to a total of 16 countries.

While the number of registered accounts highlights the growing ubiquity of mobile money, the number of active accounts is more important to understand the speed at which customers are adopting mobile money services, it disclosed.

The report added: “In 2014, the number of 90-day active mobile money accounts increased faster than the number of registered accounts, at a rate of 41.7%, to reach 103 million in December, suggesting that the industry is getting smarter about what it takes to prompt usage of the service.

In fact, an increasing number of mobile money services are reaching scale: at the end of 2014, 21 services had more than one million 90-day active accounts, seven of which passed this threshold during 2014.

Two of these services are based in West Africa, a region where the number of mobile money accounts increased dramatically this year, from 5.7 million in December 2013 to 8.9 million in December 2014. Of the 21 services with over one million active accounts, five actually have over 5 million active accounts.

The customer active rate – the percentage of registered accounts that are active on a 90-day basis – increased by 2 percentage points this year and reached 34.6% globally at the end of 2014. However, this masks strong regional differences.

The highest increase in the active rate was seen in Middle Africa where 23.9% of accounts were active in December 2014, up from 14.9% in December 2013 and less than 10% in December 2012.

Commenting on the report in a mail to The Chronicle, Ismail Ahmed, the Chief Executive Officer of WorldRemit, a UK-based online money transfer company that enables migrants and expatriates to send money using a variety of payment options, said: “The rapid growth of Mobile Money services represents one of the biggest enlargements of participation in the global financial system, ever.”

As the leading sender of remittances to Mobile Money, WorldRemit understands the life opportunities that are unlocked when people have the ability to receive, spend and save money via a mobile device, he added.

Mr. Ahmed stressed: “Many of our Mobile Money partners also offer insurance products, education and healthcare bill payments, and savings schemes. “Cash is increasingly becoming an obsolete technology as the developing world sprints ahead of the developed in its adoption of Mobile Money.”