Charting a new course for mobile money in the new normal

This blog was co-authored between the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance and the GSMA.

The dawn of a new decade has seen the world ground to a halt as we pause to tackle Covid-19. In addition to health outcomes and tragic loss of lives, the social and economic shockwaves from this unprecedented pandemic are likely to be felt for years to come. Globally, governments have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic with a range of mitigation measures that have intentionally or unintentionally impacted mobile money providers and the larger financial sector. These mitigation measures have been accompanied by a sudden change in consumer behaviour, sharp decline in economic activity and change in the relationship between financial services providers and governments. While much remains uncertain on the course of the health pandemic, it’s increasingly clear that the context in which financial innovation will take place has changed indefinitely.

Across emerging markets, poor people are among the most heavily affected by the economic lockdown and social distancing measures imposed, since they tend to be reliant on daily income which is often cash-based. Given the context, mobile money has been in the spotlight thanks to its digital nature and its catalytic role in unlocking financial access for hundreds of millions of people. In many markets, mobile money providers have quickly adjusted their operations, products and fees in response to the initial impact of Covid-19 and often in partnership with governments, regulators and the donor community to mitigate the larger economic impacts. These measures however at best are temporary and were geared at limiting the spread of COVID-19 as well as alleviating the cost of living pressure on users of mobile money services. Against this backdrop, the key question is how can regulators ensure that these measures do not impair the long-term sustainability of mobile money business.

The evolving relationship between governments and the financial sector and the interdependencies within the financial services ecosystem necessitates a common understanding of the evolving context and a coordinated response to the shared challenges and opportunities. Mobile money has historically been the predominant pathway to financial inclusion in the developing world and the rails of financial services innovation. According to the GSMA’s State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money, the industry surpassed the one billion accounts mark in 2019 and is processing nearly $2 billion in transactions every day. In doing so, the industry is helping millions meet their basic daily needs and improve their livelihoods over the long term. Sustainability of mobile money services and continuation of financial inclusion and socioeconomic gains, therefore, depends on ensuring that the regulatory measures are not putting pressure on the industry.

To this end, the GSMA is supporting the Global Covid-19 FinTech Market Rapid Assessment undertaking by The Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance at the Cambridge Judge Business School in partnershipwith the World Bank Group and World Economic Forum. The survey will collect globally comparable data from FinTechs, digital payments providers and mobile money providers to inform evidence-based regulation, policy, and business decision making. The survey can be completed in 30 minutes and accessed here:

Start the survey

The result of this study will be released at the end of September 2020 and will report on the changing regional and global context of this sector. This timely data will inform our collective understanding of the new normal and guide a global response on common threats and opportunities.

If you have any questions related to this study you can contact the research team:

For Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance: Tania Ziegler, Lead in Global Alternative Finance Benchmarking. Email: t.ziegler@jbs.cam.ac.uk;
For the World Bank Group: Ana Fiorella Carvajal, Lead Financial Sector Expert, Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation. Email: acarvajal1@worldbank.org;
For the World Economic Forum: Emma Barton, Research and Analysis, Financial and Monetary Systems. Email: maryemma.barton@weforum.org;
For the GSMA Mobile Money Programme: Aramé Awanis, Senior Insights Manager. Email: aawanis@gsma.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.