East Africa loses first place among 'big three' in mobile money hotspots

East Africa loses mobile money hotspot status/Courtesy
  • East, West and Southern Africa account for 66% (US$832 billion) of the global mobile money market valued at US$1.26 trillion. 
  • Between 2021 and 2022 the three regions added 218 million new wallets of the 401 million added globally
  • Ethiopia and Nigeria are experiencing a surge in mobile money adoption
  • West Africa’s active mobile money accounts grew by 25% between 2021 and 2022

East Africa has lost its slot as the engine of growth of Africa's mobile money sector to West Africa as indicated in the 2023 GSMA State of the Industry Report (SOTIR).

East Africa, which hosts Africa's mobile money giant M-PESA, has registered a decline in activity for two years since 2020.

In contrast, West Africa has registered an increase of 25% between 2021 and 2022 keeping up with consistency from 2018.

According to the report, "Not only are more people registering for mobile money accounts, but many who have signed up are actively using mobile money for their everyday needs – more than users have in previous years."

Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali have been leaders and the primary growth drivers in the region between 2020 and 2022.

GSMA credits the performance to freshly liberalised markets, Ethiopia and Nigeria, driven by regulatory reforms and rising demand for digital payments, for much of Africa’s rise.

“This growth can be attributed, in part, to regulatory changes in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Nigeria and Ethiopia, where mobile money adoption rose rapidly,” it says.

In Nigeria, the introduction of the payment service bank (PSB) licence has significantly and positively impacted mobile money usage.

Recent regulatory changes have allowed mobile money providers (MMPs) to launch services in the country. Nigeria has also seen mobile money account ownership rise from 16% to 22% in the past year, with 88% of accounts registered in the user’s name.

Mobile money is a digital financial service that allows users to store, send and receive money using their mobile phones. It is also a key savings channel, with 60% of mobile money providers (MMPs) offering users a savings account in 2022, compared to only half of the providers 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.”

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