Global adoption of mobile money in 2015: A look at the data

This blog post was co-written by Elisa Minischetti and Claire Scharwatt.

As we’ve seen in previous blog posts, the mobile money industry continues to make significant progress in many different aspects. In 2015, mobile money has expanded its reach to 61% of developing markets, and has become more and more accessible to existing and new customers, through an expansion in agent networks and interfaces through which the services are offered.

In this second post of the series, we will discuss how mobile money has been adopted by customers. Specifically, we will look at how the mobile industry is managing to reach the unbanked via its mobile money services, we will explore in detail how mobile money has performed in registering new customers, as well as in ensuring that the service is actively used on a 90-day basis. Finally, we will touch upon the transactions that in 2015 have been conducted over-the-counter (OTC), and how they compare with the growth in active accounts.

Mobile money & financial inclusion: the role of mobile money to bank the unbanked

With 16 new services opened in 2015, bringing the total number to 271, the mobile money industry continues to expand its reach and to contribute to deepening financial inclusion. According to the Global Findex, the share of adults with an account increased by 11 percentage points globally, from 51% in 2011 to 62% in 2014, reducing the number of unbanked to two billion in 2014, down from 2.5 billion in 2011. As our analysis shows, mobile money has played a critical role to drive financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa. In this region, at least 19 markets [1] had more mobile money accounts than bank accounts in 2015, three more compared to the previous year, and the number of adults with a mobile money account grew by 10 percentage points reaching to 34% in 2015. The Global Findex data also reveals that in 13 countries, all in Sub-Saharan Africa, at least 10% of adults are using mobile money, with Kenya showing the highest level of penetration at 58%. As such, Sub-Saharan Africa continues to position itself as the global epicentre of mobile money.

Mobile money penetration continues to grow steadily, as confirmed by the number of registered accounts

At the end of 2015, we counted a total of 411 million registered mobile money account and, of them, almost 100 million were opened in 2015, representing a year-on-year growth of 31% from 2014. However, this number masks strong regional differences: indeed, the growth was mainly driven by South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for 85% of all new accounts opened in 2015.

Comparing these numbers with the number of mobile connections can give us a better picture of the magnitude of growth of mobile money in 2015. In markets where mobile money is available, 10% of mobile connections are now linked to a mobile money account, compared to 8% in December 2014. Across Sub-Saharan Africa, the growth is even starker: one in three mobile connections are linked to a mobile money account in December 2015, up from 22% in December 2014. While the highest level of penetration was recorded in East Africa (55%), West Africa counted for the most impressive growth, where the percentage of mobile connections linked to mobile money accounts has increased by 6 percentage points since 2014, to reach 19.6%.

Mobile money users are increasingly trusting services

In 2015, 32.6% of accounts were active on a 90-day basis, representing 134 million active accounts, a number comparable to PayPal’s active users, amounting to 173 million globally.

Mobile money is also gaining trust among customers, who, in 2015, have increasingly used their account to store money. The share of accounts with a positive balance reached 46% in June 2015, and the majority of them were in South Asia (55.6%). Also, the average amount of money that customers tend to hold on their mobile money account has increased since last year, and reached a median of US$4.70. For seven of the survey respondents, the average balance reached US$10 in June 2015.

OTC growth is losing ground to the increase in mobile money accounts

Transactions via mobile money accounts are outpacing the number of transactions happening over-the-counter, signalling that more markets are reaching maturity. The annualised growth rate for the number of unregistered mobile money users who transacted OTC [2] was 22% in 2015, compared to 33% in 2014 and 102% in 2013. In 2015, 29 services globally were being delivered primarily OTC – e.g. they had more customers transacting OTC during the month of June 2015 than active accounts on a 30-day basis. Both in terms of value and in terms of volume, the majority of bill payments OTC occur in South Asia.

Download the full report

In our next blog post in the series, we’ll look at the accessibility of mobile money services, particularly around the physical and technical access to services. Continue to follow us @gsmammu and join the conversation using #mobilemoney and #SOTIR2015.


[1] Chad, Ghana and Liberia were added to the list in 2015, joining Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Paraguay, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

[2] It is important to note that here we refer only to OTC transactions that are happening formally, and that can therefore be tracked by operators.