A Decade of Mobile Money: Innovation, Growth and Sustainable Impact

By Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA

As the sun begins to set behind the hills of her village in Uganda, Fortinee walks around her clinic and starts turning on lights. A simple task, but one that she does not take for granted. Without the lights, Fortinee was forced to close her clinic as soon as the sun started to go down. Without access to affordable electricity, she had no choice but to ask her patients to return the next day. But today is a different story. Thanks to a mobile money-enabled pay-as-you-go solar system, Fortinee can keep her clinic open for longer, helping more patients, saving more lives, and building a healthier, stronger, more resilient community.

This story is one of my favourite examples of the transformational power of mobile money. This year, as we celebrate ten years of the  , it is so inspiring to see how far the mobile money industry has come, how fast it has grown, and to imagine what the future might hold.

Over the past ten years mobile money has grown from a niche offering in a handful of markets, to a mainstream financial service. Today there are 1.35 billion registered mobile money accounts processing $1 trillion in transactions annually. That is almost $2 million per minute of transactions, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Truly remarkable.

But mobile money is not just good business. With 1.7 billion unbanked adults globally[i], it is the key to advancing financial inclusion, achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and building a more equitable world for us all. With access to safe and secure financial services, millions of previously unbanked families are lifting themselves out of poverty, building small businesses, sending their children to school, and investing in their futures.

Mobile money is also an incredible catalyst for innovation, especially within low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Over the years the GSMA Innovation Funds have supported many mobile money-enabled life-enhancing initiatives. From pay-as-you-go solar home systems in off-grid areas to digital agricultural credit, and digitized humanitarian cash transfer systems, mobile money is empowering customers to access savings, recover from crisis and become more resilient to climate change.

Across the world, the mobile money ecosystem continues to grow. This year’s report highlights that in LMICs people are living increasingly digital lives thanks to mobile money, transacting more often and for more reasons than ever before. The report shows that in 2021:

  • Merchant payments skyrocketed, almost doubling from 2020, reaching an average of $5.5 billion per month, as people increasingly paid for everyday goods and services through their mobile money accounts.
  • The number of bill payments processed via mobile money grew by 37 percent to exceed $5 billion in transactions per month.
  • Bulk disbursements grew by almost a third compared to 2020, as more companies started paying salaries directly into their employees’ accounts, and governments partnered with mobile money providers to deliver much-needed pandemic relief payments.
  • Remarkably, and despite the economic uncertainty, international remittances also grew by 48 percent in 2021, as diasporas around the world continued to send money home.

Yes, the growth of the mobile money industry, even in the face of a global pandemic, is remarkable. As we look to the future, we need to focus on several areas to continue building a safe, strong, and resilient ecosystem:

  • We must continue to build regulatory frameworks and corporate strategies that modernise the mobile money ecosystem.
  • We must keep working to close the gender usage gap and strengthen consumer protection through the .
  • And we must keep working to make the mobile money industry safer, more commercially sustainable, innovative and responsive to the diverse needs of all customers around the world.

Working together we must ensure safe and secure digital finance solutions for all.

The past ten years have been an incredible journey for the mobile money industry. If they are anything to go by, I cannot wait to see what the next ten years hold in store.

The GSMA Mobile Money programme is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and supported by the GSMA and its members.
(LOGO inc)

[i] https://globalfindex.worldbank.org/#:~:text=About%201.7%20billion%20adults%20remain,through%20a%20mobile%20money%20provider.