Sub-Saharan Africa has become the global leader in mobile money adoption, usage, and innovation. The challenge now is to go beyond the success in payments to meet the unmet demand in the region for other, underdeveloped financial services that can facilitate the digitalization of other segments of the economy. In a new report, my colleagues and I take a closer look at the policy challenges that need to be addressed to go up the value chain of financial technology (fintech) in Africa.
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Sub-Saharan Africa leads the world in both per capita registered and active mobile money accounts, mobile money outlets, and volume of mobile money transactions. The region is also home to countries with the fastest growth in mobile money. Indeed, the number of mobile money accounts in sub-Saharan Africa has now surpassed bank accounts. Although most transactions are used to send and receive domestic remittances, transactions are increasingly being used for domestic transfers such as paying utility bills, receiving wages, and paying for goods and services.
Fintech providers are leveraging their experience and large customer base in payments services to provide other financial services, especially across borders. In response to the large unmet demand for credit services, cross-border payments, investment products, and insurance services on the continent, innovators are introducing new types of financial products to fill the gap.
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Kenya’s mobile network operators partnering with banks have led the way in innovations offering access to formal savings, loan, and insurance products such as Safaricom’s M-Shwari and KCB M-Pesa. Similarly, Simbapay and Kenya’s Family Bank recently launched an instant payment service connecting East Africa to China.
A new crowd-funding platform by Kiva and Zoona in southern Africa gives individuals around the world the opportunity to offer small loans to entrepreneurs. EasyEquities in South Africa allows investment in “fractions of shares” (fractional share rights), which reduces barriers like high costs and product complexity, in a variety of products (such as equities and exchange-traded funds) using a low-cost platform.
Amadou Sy is a Nonresident Senior Fellow – Global Economy and Development, Africa Growth Initiative