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Mobile money still rides on cash in African markets

Mobile money still rides on cash in African markets

While mobile money platforms have taken root in Africa, particularly in markets including Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, physical cash continues to dominate transaction settlements.

This is according to a report by McKinsey & Company Mobile Money in Emerging Markets, which offers insight into mobile money, drivers and the outlook going forward.

The study has found that cash is prevalent in the use of mobile money, and 'cash in and cash out' transactions are among the most significant drivers of revenue.

The recommendation is that mobile money operators in Africa pursue partnerships with banks and internet companies to develop further use cases that could ultimately weed out the cash component in mobile money.

"Providers stand to improve profitability meaningfully by increasing the number of digital transactions for every time cash is put into the system. That said, all evidence indicates that cash and thus cash in and cash out (CICO) will not disappear anytime soon," says the report.

Experts at McKinsey & Company believe that "recipes for overall success (in the African and other emerging market mobile money areas) could include a bank-MNO partnership or an established internet player acquiring an agent distribution" network.

They said the partnership between Example Equity Bank and Airtel, and that between Standard Bank and MTN were prototypes that could prove successful in other markets across the continent.

"Digital payments also enable pay-per-service, or pay-as-you-go, models. For example, low-cost private schools like Bridge International Academies in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and India rely on receiving school fees and paying teacher salaries digitally as part of their cost-efficient business models."

In East Africa, a clean energy company, M-KOPA Solar already enables consumers "to pay a small deposit on a solar panel and then pay per use" with mobile money.

If developed fully and embraced holistically, , digital finance interwoven with mobile money "has the potential to reach over 1.6 billion new retail customers in emerging" economies.

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