Mobile money providers are providing products that go beyond simple peer-to-peer payments and retail. Farmers in Zimbabwe can insure their crops against drought or excessive rainfall through EcoFarmer, an insurance service offered by Econet Zimbabwe, which lets them pay back the $10 premium for the season using EcoCash Mobile Money.
Customers of bKash Mobile Money in Bangladesh can earn interest of up to 4 percent a year on the savings they accumulate on their mobile money accounts. In Kenya, hundreds of donations are received weekly by crowdfunding platform mChanga, which lets users donate via M-PESA or Airtel Money for no transaction charge.
These and many other innovative mobile financial products are transforming financial services for many people around the world. But there’s still a long way to go.103 million users represent only a third of the 300 million registered mobile money customers globally, and mobile money providers also struggle with driving adoption, educating new customers and bringing merchants on board.
There are places around the world, however, where mobile payments have taken a very different path 89 countries across the developing world, to be precise. Many people may already be familiar with M-PESA in Kenya (launched in 2007), the mobile money service which processes around $2.1 billion worth of transactions per month. Fifty-nine percent of Kenyan adults use M-PESA, and the platform accounts for 66 percent of transaction volumes processed through the national payments system. M-PESA users can do everything from buying groceries to paying utility and school bills, or even purchasing airline tickets, all from their mobile, and without needing a bank account.
That’s now changing. In India, for example, the Central Bank recently made a landmark decision to allow non-bank entities to offer mobile financial services, recognising the successes taking place elsewhere and the huge impact that mobile money could have in increasing financial inclusion among India’s 720 million unbanked adults. Paytm, a payment services provider in which Jack Ma’s Alibaba recently acquired 25 percent, is just one of the 40 or so applicants for mobile money licenses under the new regulation.
there is a huge opportunity to take money transfer one step further, to connect families living in different continents in the same way that they are now accustomed to communicating with each other – online and via mobile. Expectations have changed. The proliferation of mobile money services shows that people – even the unbanked – demand better than the lengthy queues, cumbersome processes, and high fees offered by the incumbent international money transfer “super racket.”
And if you thought this phenomenon was taking place far from U.S. shores, think again. Even if you hadn’t yet heard of mobile money, many people in the U.S. already have, and many are already sending money directly to mobile money accounts of their family and loved ones abroad.
Transfers directly to mobile money wallets abroad from the United States grew 30-fold over the past 6 months alone, with cities as diverse as Milwaukee and Boise representing some of the largest numbers of senders to Africa and beyond. These people know the importance of 24-hour service availability at the touch of a screen. These people understand that the global mobile payments revolution isn’t on its way. It’s already here.