For most people in the developed world, mobile technology is a convenience that makes it faster and easier to pay at the grocery store or keep track of a budget. But for people in the developing world, with limited access to traditional financial services and formidable obstacles to overcome each day to survive, mobile wallets bring life-enhancing improvements in areas far beyond financial inclusion.
In part two of our series on the importance of mobile wallets and their contribution to financial inclusion, we look at how these simple but powerful technologies are also helping to overcome major development challenges and providing people with tools to help them resist financial shocks and lift themselves out of poverty.
Mobile money transfers: crucial for survival during COVID
The money migrants send home to their loved ones, international remittances, far exceeds the aid developing countries receive from international agencies and governments. Amounting to well over $500 billion each year, remittances are considered so critical that during the pandemic, countries declared money transfer an essential service so that customers could continue to send and receive money, despite lockdown restrictions.
Mobile wallets, which are widely available in most of the countries where less than one third of the population possess a bank account, have become so robust that they can take the place of bank accounts. With a mobile wallet, users have access to a broad range of financial services including receiving money transfers, paying bills or withdrawing cash at authorized locations.
Mobile wallets: improving food security
Cash disbursements, like those many developed countries have provided during the COVID pandemic, are an increasingly important part of social protection policies all over the world. In developing countries with weak financial infrastructure, mobile money systems are an opportunity to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of these aid disbursements. According to research carried out in Uganda, people living in rural households who adopted mobile money increased their consumption more than 70 percent.
Mobile money services help farmers improve productivity by making it easier for them to buy equipment, seeds and fertilizer, and make investments as well as to reduce risk by purchasing insurance. It also helps them build a digital history of their business activities, bringing them closer to establishing creditworthiness with financial service providers and opening the door to more and better financial services and credit that can help them expand. In short, access to mobile money is helping reduce the obstacles to rural development and transforming the sector that employs the most people in developing economies: agriculture.
Supporting education in remote areas
Mobile money providers are working with primary and secondary schools and universities in a number of developing countries, either directly or through local authorities, to digitise payments for registration, tuition, and exam fees as well as teacher salaries. This can result in lower costs and more efficiency and transparency, helping make education more sustainable. For teachers working in rural areas, digitizing pay can drastically reduce the cost of collecting their salary, allowing them to spend more valuable time in class with their students.
Extending the reach of healthcare
The governments of many developing countries have used mobile money technology to distribute aid during the COVID-19 crisis. Bangladesh is providing $30 a month to about five million poor families using one of the country’s four mobile financial service providers as part of its pandemic relief measures and other countries such as Kenya, India and Colombia are using mobile money to make aid transfer payments as well.
Before COVID, the use of mobile money in healthcare in the developing world was already rising rapidly. Salary payments for health workers in remote areas was being made easier and more efficient by digitizing payments and patients were using mobile money channels to access funds during health emergencies. One example is Kenya, where one third of low-income households pay hospital bills using mobile money transfers from family and friends.
Since mobile money creates a recorded financial history for every deposit, withdrawal or transfer made, it can help protect consumer rights, build trust in business and foster efficient payment networks. Digitizing government benefit payments also reduces the risk of fraud and theft, making the system more cost effective and sustainable.
The data records generated by mobile transactions help facilitate oversight and supervision by local and international authorities of money laundering and terrorism financing activities, particularly since mobile money systems have strong safeguards built in.
Mobile money can help governments build more effective monetary policy by channelling more money and assets into the formal financial system, contributing to economic stability. By producing transaction records, mobile money encourages a shift to the formal economy which fosters contributions to social security, taxes and secure wage payments, helping make it easier for the public sector to finance itself.
At Ria, we understand how important it is to get money where it matters quickly and safely. Our digital expansion helps foster financial inclusion globally, which promotes development. We currently offer mobile wallets in 26 countries and serve over 436 million users, but we are working hard every day to expand our digital footprint to more countries. Our mobile wallets bring financial services, including cross-border money transfer solutions, in easy reach of our customers, no matter how far away they are.