Developments in sub-Saharan Africa

Over the past decade sub-Saharan Africa has become one of the fastest growing regions in the world, showing a significant uptake from the past 60 years when development was still very much varied and sporadic. Though the growth in the region is mainly due to primary exports such as unprocessed agricultural and forest products, minerals and fossil fuels, structural transformation still remains subdued. Foreign investment in the region is increasing, there’s a boom in innovation, despite challenges like poverty, poor infrastructure and climate change.

Big on mobile

According to new data gathered from a study conducted by the GSMA – a trade body that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide – sub-Saharan Africa accounts for more than 50% of the 227 mobile money deployments globally, with the number of live mobile money schemes reaching approximately 140 across 39 countries.

Since the launch of M-Pesa in Kenya in 2007, the growth in mobile money services has grown steadily for 10 years, and according to the same study by the GSMA, more than 40% of adults in seven sub-Saharan markets are active mobile money users. These markets are: Zimbabwe, Uganda, Namibia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana and Gabon.

The evolution of mobile money

The use of mobile money has evolved in recent years. From person-to-person payments and topping up airtime, to paying bills and sending money abroad. Known as ‘ecosystem payments’, they account for approximately 17% of all mobile money transactions, and has quadrupled between 2014 and 2016.

At the end of 2016, across sub-Saharan Africa, there were 277 million registered mobile money accounts. Historically, the majority of mobile money users have been situated in East Africa, in countries like Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, but according to recent data, West Africa is becoming a key driver of user growth. Today, approximately 29% of active mobile money accounts in sub-Saharan Africa are based in West Africa, compared to 8% five years ago.

According to the GSMA, sub-Saharan Africa will have 500 million mobile subscribers by 2020, and with more than half of mobile money services in the world situated in the region, it remains one of the fastest growing mobile markets in the world.

The GSMA’s The Mobile Economy: Sub-Saharan Africa 2017 report states, “Mobile is a vital tool in delivering digital and financial inclusion in sub-Saharan Africa.”

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