Mobile money has transformed the lives of millions of people globally. Today there are 1.35 billion registered mobile money accounts processing $1 trillion in transactions annually.
That is almost $2 million per minute of transactions, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Truly remarkable.
Over the past decade, mobile money has expanded from a niche offering in a handful of markets to a mainstream financial service, moving millions of households in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) from the informal cash economy into a more inclusive digital economy.
In 2012, there were 169 deployments in 71 countries. Ten years on, the number of live deployments has almost doubled to 316 and expanded to 98 countries worldwide.
Across LMICs, people are living increasingly digital lives thanks to mobile money, transacting more often and for more reasons than ever before.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this shift as people turned to digital, no-contact ways to purchase everyday items, pay bills, receive government support payments and send money home to family.
In 2021, this continued growth helped push the value of transactions to the trillion-dollar mark – a milestone reached faster than anyone in the industry could have predicted.
The tenth annual State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money looks back at this memorable year for this growing and more diversified industry.
The report reflects on a decade of growth and track the transformative effects that mobile has had on the financial lives of those who, ten years ago, were left behind.
A trillion dollars transacted as the industry diversifies
In 2021, the mobile money industry processed more than $1 trillion in transactions.
The year-on-year increases in transaction values have been driven by new customer uptake and a growing number of mobile money use cases.
For example, in 2012, ecosystem transactions such as bill payments, bulk disbursements, merchant payments and international remittances accounted for less than 10% of overall transactions.
10 years on, this has risen to 20%, a clear sign that mobile money providers are embracing diversification.
Adoption continues their trajectory
In 2021, the number of registered accounts reached 1.35 billion globally, up 18% since last year and 10 times more than there were in 2012 (134 million).
518 million of these accounts were active on a 90- day basis and 346 million on a 30-day basis, growing nearly 15 times and 13 times respectively since 2012.
The volume and frequency of transactions also registered strong growth.
In 2021, more than 1.5 million person-to-person (P2P) transactions were made every hour on average, compared to fewer than 68,000 in 2012, and the average account makes 3.5 P2P transactions per month.
Agent networks continue to thrive
Between 2012 and 2021, the number of active agents grew more than 10 times, from 534,000 to 5.6 million, unlocking access to financial services for the most underserved customers.
Despite closures and restrictions on movement during the COVID-19 pandemic, the value cashed in and digitised via mobile money agent networks grew by 18% in 2021, reaching a total of $261 billion or more than $715 million a day.
Even the most established agent networks registered strong growth, with the 25 largest networks growing by more than 25% on average from 2020 to 2021.
Regulatory challenges persist
Despite the huge success of mobile money services in many countries, in others, the sustainability of mobile money services is threatened by certain policy and regulatory interventions, from taxes on transactions to poorly implemented instant payment solutions and costly data localisation mandates.
The high cost of compliance is shared by mobile money providers and customers alike with potentially negative consequences on future investments in, and customer usage of, mobile money services.
Dialogue between policy makers, regulators and industry leaders is of paramount importance in order to prevent adverse policy and regulatory interventions.
Over the last decade, we have seen the transformative power of mobile money in providing a pathway to financial inclusion.
Yet, the work is far from over. As economies build back from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that mobile money helps everyone have access to the tools they need to weather economic storms, build financial health and participate in an inclusive recovery.
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