BY ONOME AMUGE
The mobile money industry soared towards a new milestone in 2021 as the value of transactions processed globally rose 31 percent year-on-year to $1 trillion for the first time on record, according to a report released by the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA), which monitors data in the mobile telecommunications industry.
GSMA, in its 10th consecutive annual report titled “State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money”, noted that mobile money patronage enjoyed a significant increase in the number of registered accounts, rising 18 percent since 2020 to 1.35 billion globally, while the volume of person-to-person transactions saw an estimated 1.5 million per hour growth.
According to GSMA, one of the most significant drivers of growth was merchant payments, which almost doubled year on year, reaching an average of $5.5 billion in transactions per month.
The report further disclosed a substantial growth in the diversification of business to business (B2B) services as business proceedings extended beyond traditional person-to-person transactions.
Max Cuvellier, head of mobile for development at GSMA, explained that aside from transactions such as transferring money to family or friends, the mobile money industry is now central in helping small businesses operate more efficiently and serve their customers better.
On the role of mobile money in the daily lives of people and businesses, especially in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), the report said the service has continually served as a driving force for financial inclusion for the world’s most vulnerable, particularly empowering women to make better financial decisions, control finances and purchase goods conveniently when they are urgently needed.
The report added that access to humanitarian aid, utilities and agricultural solutions has been enhanced by mobile money.
Highlighting the challenges of mobile money operations, GSMA asserted that owning a mobile phone is an obvious prerequisite to using mobile money, but observed that 143 million or seven percent of women across LMICs are less likely than men to own a mobile phone, placing them at a disadvantaged position.
It added that additional barriers to mobile money access include a lack of awareness of mobile money and a deficit in perceived relevance, knowledge and skills.
GSMA enjoined policymakers, the private sector, donors and other stakeholders to take more concerted actions towards addressing the mobile money gender gap across LMICs and ensure that existing inequalities are not further entrenched, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.