Mobile banking 'improving access to finance' across Africa

Jul 19, 2010

Access to financial services in Senegal is being boosted by a mobile banking system, with success in Kenya providing inspiration.

That is the observation of Technology Review, which noted 40 per cent of adults in the latter country now use Safaricom's M-Pesa service - nine million people having signed up since 2007. Residents of Senegal now have the same opportunity, with Yoban-tel from Obopay allowing customers to deposit money into accounts in local stores, then use it to pay bills. During the recent Fifa World Cup, many Senegalese people with no bank accounts took advantage by paying electronically to watch matches via satellite.

And economist at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Ignacio Mas observed mobile banking services have failed in developed countries because people tend to already have access to banks. However, he described Senegal and Africa in general as offering major potential, stating: "That has to do with the magnitude of the need [for financial services] and the fact that connectivity is available for the first time."

Last week, Simon Russell of Accenture South Africa observed that banks in South Africa are coming under pressure to provide such services, as a high proportion of customers have mobile phones.