Mobile money moves out from Kenya

No report on the growth of mobile money can be complete without a mention of Kenya’s resounding success in this area. The country’s telecoms regulator recently released statistics that showed Kenyans had between 2011 and 2012 made deposits worth $8 billion, a 38 per cent jump and almost half the current national budget.

The push towards the “mobile wallet” has been a trend widely replicated on the continent this year: According to the GSM Association, which tracks mobile money deployments around the world, some 130 mobile money systems have been implemented since March 2012, with close to 80 of these in Africa.

And with recent data showing that the continent is the fastest growing telecoms region, the market can only grow bigger, with the poor now able to access financial services that were previously in short supply.

The benefits have been huge: Mobile adoption has directly contributed 4.5 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP, or $32 billion.

The industry now accounts for 350 million jobs, with the attendant wave of mobile and content innovation leading to mini Silicon Savannahs sprouting all over the continent.

Nigeria, the continent’s largest market, has close to 100 million mobile phones.

The Praekelt Foundation put out an engagingly informative video on mobile phone trends this year. A telling nugget gleaned is that the first mobile phone mast was only put up on the continent in 1994; 18 years later, mobile penetration is hovering at around 70 per cent, and growing fast.

For many Africans, the first time they are likely to access the Internet is through the mobile phone, even if they may not known it due to unobtrusive services such as Google’s SMS platform.

The runaway growth has led the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Unctad, to call for an effective and robust legal and regulatory framework to govern the sector, with co-operation across telecommunications, banking and electronic commerce; a case of regulation not keeping up with the industry.

The key areas of concern, according to the trade body, are consumer protection, registration and transaction limits, regulatory collaboration and interoperability, meaning interconnection between telecommunication networks.

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