Introducing the GSMA’s 2021 Mobile Money Handbook: why policy still matters

In 2018, the GSMA Mobile Money Programme published an updated Mobile Money Policy Handbook. The 2018 edition brought together practical mobile money policy and regulatory considerations from a range of sources, coupled with the team’s industry experience. The Handbook explored “regulatory challenges that have faced the industry since its inception”, and recommended “approaches key stakeholders can take towards creating an enabling environment”. It was published to support global standard setters, governments and regulators in introducing policies that encourage investment, innovation and competition in the mobile money sector.

Since then, policy objectives have remained important to the changing scope of mobile money regulation. Between 2019 and 2020, 13 markets saw an increase in their Mobile Money Regulatory Index scores. This can be attributed to the introduction of new regulation related to digital financial services and the growing use of national financial inclusion policies. From 2020 onwards, most new regulation focussed on protecting vulnerable users against the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Examples of new regulatory interventions include increases in transaction limits and wallet balances, simplified know-your-customer (KYC) processes and fee waivers.

Mobile money remains important in bridging the financial inclusion gap in LMICs, which requires a good understanding of relevant policy and regulatory. As a result, the GSMA is pleased to publish an updated Handbook. Like in the 2018 edition, this version explores regulatory challenges the industry has faced from the onset, and recommends approaches for key stakeholders to take in creating an enabling environment. The Handbook’s content is based on updated statistics and new resources, and will be updated in the future as the industry evolves.

This version accounts for recent policy and regulatory considerations by providing an updated snapshot of certain policy areas, such as authorisation, KYC requirements and consumer protection, among others. The new handbook also includes sections on new and upcoming policy areas, such as cybersecurity, fraud, affordability, privacy and data protection and financial health.

Financial health, in particular, is a policy area that is likely to grow in important as a policy theme. For instance, financial health may be more relevant to mobile money providers’ aims than initially thought. For instance, although mobile money improves access to formal financial services, more needs to be done for users to benefit from formal financial services. Many mobile money providers are keen for their services to be used as a platform for additional financial services and other products. This shows that mobile money should be considered in a more holistic manner than simply as a payments system.

The Handbook draws on the GSMA’s unique knowledge of the mobile sector and mobile money services. It has been designed to work as a practical guide to policy issues, a window into the industry’s broader development, a signpost for regulatory best practice and a source for further information. For each key policy and regulatory theme that affects the mobile money industry, the Handbook looks at:

  • The background to the theme;
  • The key discussion questions on the theme; and
  • The considerations for policymakers and regulators.

We welcome your comments and feedback on the 2021 Mobile Money Policy Handbook.

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