SIM CITY

Tanzania 2015 | TELECOMS & IT | FOCUS: MOBILE BANKING

Mobile, or m-money, remains far from a saturated market, but as uptake increases in line with mobile penetration, it is having a positive effect on Tanzanians' attitudes towards safeguarding tomorrow.

World Bank data indicates that over 2.5 billion adults, mostly living in developing economies, lack access to a formal bank account. Meanwhile, the GSM Association brings the consequences into sharper relief by extrapolation; “This means about 48% of the world's adult population is not able to access basic financial services in order to save, borrow or transact." Many frontier markets nowadays are pursuing a digital solution that leverages rising trends for mobile phone penetration—mobile money. The advantages are clear; namely, safe cashless transactions and the convenience of remote access to a plethora of services.

A Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) Financial Services for the Poor (FSP) program study (2011) into mobile money in Tanzania had some interesting findings. The study reported that 35% of Tanzanian households had at least one m-money user, while 33% had at least one registered m-money user. Furthermore, 63% of households surveyed had a mobile phone, which reveals existing potential for further growth of m-money services. Even among rural, unbanked, households (living on under $2 a day), roughly one-half of households had access to a mobile phone and owned a SIM card.

Most tellingly perhaps, was the fact that households with m-money users were twice as likely to save, and five times more likely to opt for a formal financial institution than households with non-users. Furthermore, having taken to saving, these family units were also more receptive to safeguarding their futures by taking out insurance.

LIMITATIONS

The survey revealed that lack of awareness aside—just 13% of non-users surveyed were unfamiliar with m-money—the key obstacle to uptake was the perception of inconsistent service provision by m-money agents. In particular this involved poor accessibility to these agents, or inadequate fund availability in terms of e-float or cash to help with a transaction.

THE ENABLERS

M-money services have been available in the country since 2008, but the bulk of today's users have adopted the service over the past four. Tanzanians (three-quarters of those surveyed) have been receptive to m-money related media campaigns, while 20% have been swayed by the positive experiences of friends. Currently, the Tanzanian market has four m-money products: Vodacom M-Pesa, Tigo Pesa, Airtel Money, and Ezy Pesa (Zantel Z-Pesa). Additionally, local National Microfinance Bank (NMB) provides the Pesa Fasta mobile application, enabling users to send money to Tanzanians lacking bank accounts. Vodacom M-Pesa, available nationwide, is the chief provider of m-money services (53% of the m-money market). It is followed by Tigo Pesa (18%) and Airtel Money (13%). Meanwhile, Joseph Carasso, Managing Director of Citibank Tanzania told TBY that, “For us, mobile money is about technology that allows for greater financial inclusion through the provision of a cost-effective means of payment to individuals, as well as an alternative payment/collection channel for our institutional clients."

WHAT'S BEING DONE

Generally speaking, m-money services are used for the sending or receiving of remittances for systematic financial support among family members living apart. A low 14% of surveyed households had made or received a non-remittance payment in the prior six months using m-money. Additionally, however, 21% of Vodacom M-Pesa users and 12% of users of both Airtel Money and Tigo Pesa performed business transactions on their accounts for activities such as purchasing inventory and receiving payments for goods and services. It also turns out that m-money is the second most popular savings instrument after the proverbial mattress. It is considered a safe option by half of surveyed households when saving for specific events or emergencies as well.