Each year, billions of dollars are transferred to various countries using remittance services (e.g. money on mobile). According to a new report released by the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), migrants from developing countries sent home $445 billion in 2016. This amount is expected to rise by another $5 billion this year.
For many years, migrant workers who wanted to send money back to their home countries had a limited choice when it comes to remittance service providers (RSPs). However, today, there are many options available to anyone who wants to send funds anywhere in the world (read my article "International money transfer app needed for India, Middle-East or Africa?".
In the past, cross border transactions were often complicated and expensive.
In our today’s world there are many people living, studying or working abroad. For a wide range of reasons:
- Ex Patriots
Poverty, misery, war and terror influence the life of many people. Many families leave their homes and never know if they will ever come back.
For all of us it is essential to have the right tools on hand for the managing our small or big amounts of money. For people abroad it is even more essential.
International money transfers are a key element for many of us.
To trust in the services and to give money to somebody with the aim to send it to somebody else, this has always to be done in the right way.
The African continent and many African countries are frontrunners for mobile money solutions. Many international high quality organizations and magazines highlight the opportunities of money on mobile usage in Kenya, Ghana or Uganda:
The world shrinks together, it's becoming the so-called global village. But international money transfers are sensitive and need to be handled with care.
This is the starting point of this in-depth article about money on mobile transfers and how to benefit of it.
There are four essential features of international money transfers, especially valid for online money transfers:
I show you below some best practices of Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania as examples which give cribility and trust.
In a further step I will talk about mobile money providers which are supported in many African countries: WorldRemit, Xoom and Azimo.
Money on mobile transfers allow instantaneous, secure and cheap money transfers for people abroad (e.g. refugees, migrants, students, ex-pats, etc) to support their family or friends at home.
Ghana: a Story of Success for Mobile Remittance Services
In recent years, mobile money has experienced unprecedented growth in sub-Saharan Africa. While Kenya is the most often cited example of this mobile cash transformation, Ghana is making huge strides. It now holds the mantle of the fastest growing mobile cash market.
The registered accounts in the nation have grown six-fold between 2012 and 2017. The experience of Ghana with mobile money has helped to show that mobile technology can be used to bring about financial inclusion in Africa.
In Ghana, mobile cash services have become a favorite banking option for those underserved by the banking sector. A recent survey shows that access to financial services amongst adults rose from 41% to 58% from 2014 to 2017. This is mainly due to increased access to mobile accounts. About 20% of current digital wallet users were previously unbanked. Mobile accounts account for almost 40% of the formal account holders compared to just 13% in 2014.
Besides that, by reducing the time that it takes to conduct a transaction and associated costs and risks, mobile money solutions meet the needs of the vulnerable better. This is especially useful for small-scale farmers. While accessing financial services in rural areas is still low, the figure has almost doubled since 2011. It has grown from about 26% to about 51% today. Today, almost 40% of payments for small-scale agriculture produce are conducted through a formal channel, which is often a mobile money account.
The Rapid Rise of Money on Mobile Payments in Ghana
There are many reasons why money on mobile accounts has grown so much here. Firstly, mobile devices penetration is high at about 128%, which makes it easy to use these services. It is especially so in rural areas. Second, the perfect mix of consumer actions and a great regulatory environment has made penetration easy.
While Ghana can boast about a great mobile money network today, it actually struggle in the early years. Originally, regulation for branchless banking, which was established in 2008, was stifling. It imposed rules and requirement, which kept away most investors. The regulation was based on the perceived high risk of letting non-bank players like mobile network to operate e-money networks. There were also fears that it would have a negative impact on the stability of the banking industry.
When no signs of growth could be seen, the bank of Ghana with help from CGAP engaged stakeholders and they reexamined the legislation to secure the future of money on mobile. The new rules created a more flexible legal environment. This allowed new player to provide financial services while also leaving more room for experimentation.
Important Initiatives in Ghana’s Money on Mobile Market
Besides creating a better regulatory environment, Ghana made other reforms to support the development of mobile money. One of the most important developments was the growth of the distribution network from about 6000 agents in 2012 to over 150,000 in 2015. It made it possible for more cash-in cash-out operations to take place while also making it more convenient to use mobile money.
In May 2018, Ghana became one of the first countries to launch an interoperable system. This meant that different service providers could now be used for transactions. Payments made through the system reached 57 million US dollars by March 2019. With E-zwich card being introduced, it is going to ease recognition and using payment solutions for all the cardholders.
Adoption of money on mobile is growing but is still limited by the acceptance of merchants. Thus far, 2.7 million cards have already been distributed and 7.7 million transactions have gone through. These transactions represent 2% of the nation’s GDP. However, many people still only use it for immediate cash-out. About 53% of them have some residual value.
Most people in Ghana use their mobile wallets for P2P transactions. According to data from the bank of Ghana, all transactions were valued at 29 billion dollars in 2017, compared to 6.5 billion in 2015. Gradually, the goods accessible via mobile money have grown to include credits, payment of public bills, and even salaries.
Government to People is the Next Step
For mobile cash growth to be sustainable, the next step is to digitize government services. Majority of these services are still paid for in Cash. By digitizing these payments, it will broaden the government’s tax base while growing their formal economy. This will also go a long way in supporting efforts for financial inclusion.
A good example of this is the nation National Health insurance Authority. The authority has a role of ensuring access to basic health services for all Ghanaians. By the end of 2018, there were about 11 million people taking part in the system. Renewals have to be done in person or at the district office. The process sometimes took as long as 11 hours, which slowed down coverage. It then leveled off at about 30%. With the support of various international partners, a user-friendly platform was created that makes it possible for renewals to be done via mobile money. The aim is to reach as many people as possible via a simple message and interface, which was easy for ordinary people to understand.
As with any program, the NHIA program faces various challenges. However, the use of technology has made it possible to address some logistical challenges. Today, about 54% of renewals take place with the aid of mobile money. This mobile money reduced queuing at the district offices.
Other Impacts of Mobile Technology
Another aspect of the digital push includes verifying the identity of the member at the healthcare facility and notifying users when a claim is made in their name. This has helped to flag incidents of potential fraud. By increasing the digital renewals as well as authentication, it has helped to increase revenue while cutting back costs. This could potentially lead to a 25% reduction in the annual deficit.
Its success and sustainability will depend on the ability to grow adoption amongst workers in the informal sector as well as coverage in rural areas. The authorities will need to make the process as simple and user-friendly for it to succeed.
Ghana is a good case of a government being committed to creating a framework that supports innovation. These solutions increase access to financial services like mobile-based pension schemes and health insurance. More people who were previously unbanked can now access micro-loan services. Users will also be able to earn interest when they use digital savings accounts, with interests paid to holders of mobile wallets amounting to 4.5 million US dollars in 2016. We are eager to present such examples on this site about money transfer apps.
However, Ghana faces the challenge of limited literacy in finance. Many who use digital credit products do not fully understand their rights and obligations they have as consumers. Sometimes they become victims of predatory lending habits. In the future, the consumer protection watchdog will need to deal with consumer protection issues. The African Developments bank has already created a few pointers that the Ghanaian government can use.
Ghana is the fastest growing mobile money market in Africa. It has achieved this position by government backed activities for financial inclusion of the poor and unbanked people. Now a large part of the population benefits from the mobile money services.
Second example: The Mobile Money Market of Uganda
Today, Uganda’s mobile money market is the second largest in Africa. money on Mobile has seen a lot of growth since it was introduced in 2009. The business model involves a partnership between a mobile money operator and a bank. The service is thus far restricted to domestic remittances.
By December 2014, there were more than 18 million people using mobile money in Uganda. By 2015, there were about 64 million transactions per month with UGX 2.1 trillion transactions taking place in the last quarter of 2015. The product has played a great role in improving financial inclusion in the nation.
Regulation of Mobile Money
The Financial Institutions Act of 2014 regulates mobile money transactions. Thus, all mobile money operators need to receive clearance from the Central Bank. If they do not have a license, they have to collaborate with a licensed operator. Mobile money operators have to hold an escrow account with an amount of equivalent value to what they sell to customers.
Working with the UCC
The Uganda Communication Commission has to license all mobile money operators that wish to use the telecommunication network for money on mobile. Besides that, the UCC has to ensure that there is an available network for mobile money services to work.
The Future of Mobile Money in Uganda
It is safe to say that mobile money will be part of the National Payment System in the future.
The Bank of Uganda Act was amended to give power to the Central Bank to regulate and supervise payments.
With this change, mobile money operators are now recognized as payment services providers.
Third example: The Mobile Money Market of Zambia
Mobile phone usage has continued to grow in Zambia, which has led to the growth of mobile cash services. With these services, Zambians are able to send and receive cash via their mobile phone. With cell networks expanding, more Zambians are being reached by these services when they previously had no access to formal financial services.
For people living on islands or other remote regions of Zambia, low-income customers can now get funds, pay bill and store value via their phone. A growing network of retail agents has also helped to increase the adoption of this service.
While the use of mobile cash has expanded, it has raised various regulatory issues. Policymakers are working to ensure that these services are delivered in a responsible manner. The service is easy to use, safe, and secure.
Why Mobile Cash Services Matter
East Africa has provided a good example of how money on mobile services can help to transform families and increase their incomes. Zambia, like many other African nations, is watching and learning. The nation is ripe for these services. It has a huge mobile penetration of about 77% and cell towers are rapidly expanding in the nation.
There is already regulation in place for mobile money users and customers and policymakers and regulators are working to deepen penetration and create opportunities. The government already has the National Financial Inclusion Strategy 2017-2022 in place to help the government expand access to mobile cash services.
The consumer protection authorities in the nation are already working to protect customers from exploitation. Various issues like transaction limits, KYC, and transparency are being worked on. The regulation is updated often to accommodate rapidly changing needs in the market. While there is still more work to be done. Zambia is on the right path when it comes to mobile cash. The government fully supports the use of money on mobile and its potential benefits.
The Role of Mobile Money for International Remittances to Africa
In African, more people have mobile phones than those that have bank accounts. As a result, when money on mobile services was first introduced in Africa, they took off in a big way. It makes it possible for an immigrant in the West to send back funds with ease to families in Africa.
Sending money through mobile services is often cheap and efficient compared to other potions. With mobile transfers, money can reach even the most remote villages of Africa. There are now many mobile cash agents, which makes withdrawing the cash quite easy. It's just the question to find the best money transfer app for your situation.
The market is quite lucrative and executives of some of the biggest telecommunications companies in Africa are embracing it. One of the first successes in this area was Kenya’s Safaricom, working in collaboration with Vodafone in the UK. Initially, the service was used for local remittances. Since then, it has expanded internationally for those in the UK to send money back to Kenya. By 2010, there were over 15.4 million subscribers using the services. This represented over half of the nation’s adult population.
First, They Ignored It
When the service was introduced, most of the financial world ignored it as some kind of gimmick. It was hard to convince banks that people outside the cities were potential customers. Mobile transactions can offer banks an easy way to reach the masses in rural areas where building a bank would not make sense.
In some regions of Africa, banks are working with telecommunication companies to roll out mobile cash services. In South Sudan, one of the youngest nations in the continent, people use mobile remittance services like MPesa of Kenya to send money back home.
Many banks in Africa are now adopting this model of business. It allows them to reach the unbanked masses without many costs. The remaining amount is held in a mobile wallet for later use. By allowing people to hold money in a mobile account, the hope is that it will later find itself in an actual account. Mobile cash operators are also working with banks to create savings accounts where users can earn interest. Banks have also begun to introduce mobile-based insurance services for their customers.
There are Still Challenges
Mobile cash services still face challenges in Africa. One reason why MPesa was able to take off so much was that Safaricom had a near monopoly of the market. However, the services have not been able to replicate such growth in other markets, where there is no real monopoly.
There is also the issue of mistrust.
Most people still trust their banks compared to getting cash via a phone. However, with phones having already been accepted in most places across Africa, banks are holding road shows to show people how mobile on money works. There is also the issue of regulation. The laws in various countries vary, which makes it hard to replicate the success of money on mobile service in different nations.
The money on mobile concept allows many Africans to leapfrog traditional steps and to get better access to financial means. Sending money on mobile has become an established tool for remittances, because it's easy to handle, instantaneous, secure and affordable.
Mobile Money Vs Moneygram & Western Union Vs Peer to Peer Money Transfers
For a while, international companies like Moneygram and Western Union dominated money remittances to African. However, mobile money and peer-to-peer money transfers are changing that.
One of the main downsides to classic money transfers is that there are still huge charges for international transfers.
Peer-to-Peer transfers like CurrencyFair and TransferWire have the benefit of being quite cheap. Besides that, they allow users to pick their own currency conversion rates. As a result, they do not charge any fee. Instead, they make a profit on the difference in the exchange rate and a small fixed rate that may apply for some regions. It is why they are one of the fastest growing options for money remittances to Africa.
With many people in Africa now owning a mobile device with internet access, the use of these services will only continue to grow in the future.
However, all these services face a similar problem. The problem of illiteracy is still huge in some regions of Africa. Using these services requires some basic reading skills to use well. It can be a major problem for some people in African. However, these are surmountable odds compared to other remittance services, which used to charge a rate of as much as 15% per remittance.
Existing Mobile Transfer Services: WorldRemit and Azimo
Always remember: Africa is not a country. Africa is a continent!
WorldRemit, Azimo and Xoom understand this basic learning. They are supported in many African countries!
But each provider offer different fees and exchanges rates. Depending on your sending currency, sending country, your receiving currency and your receiving country you will get different results. Sometimes Xoom hast the best offer, sometimes WorldRemit, sometimes it's Azimo.
E.g. let's check the situation for a money transfer from the USA and Europe: the aim is to send 200 USD respectively 200 EUR to Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania or Uganda and to compare how much money arrives for the receiver.
As you see, we need to have a closer look on the different online money transfer providers and check their offers for each country. There's no general advice available about Xoom, WorldRemit or Azimo.
WorldRemit is one of the fastest growing technology companies in the UK. The company allows users to send money overseas conveniently through the WorldRemit money on mobile app (Android and iOS) and online. The recipient will receive the money through their mobile money account, bank account, cash pick-up, or in the form of mobile airtime top-up.
Users can send money from over 50 countries to over 110 countries around the globe, with even more locations to become available in the future. Sending money through the WorldRemit money on mobile app is simple. After creating a free account, users will be asked to select the country to which they wish to transfer funds, the amount they wish to send, and how the recipient will receive the funds.
After entering the recipient’s details, users are expected to select their payment method – the company allows users to fund transfers from their bank account, debit card, and credit card. Once all the required information is provided, the company will initiate the transaction. Users are notified via text messages or email when the funds have been sent and when they have been received by the recipient.
The following mobile money providers are available for WorldRemit transfers to Ghana, e.g.:
- MTN MoMo
- Airtel money
The pricing model is easy to understand. The charged fees increase stepwise.
• User-friendly mobile app
• Low transaction fees
• 24/7 support
• Significant fees as transfer amount increases
• Does not allow users to send more than $2,000
Azimo is an international money transfer service based in London. What makes the company stand out from the competition are the number of countries they allow their customers to send money to and the several options through which the money can be delivered. The company allows users to send money to over 192 countries across the world in 80 different currencies. The cash can be delivered in different ways including mobile money, cash-pickup, mobile recharge, ATM, or having the cash delivered to the recipient’s home.
Transferring money via the Azimo money on mobile app (Android and iOS) is easy. All you have to do is provide the recipient’s details, enter the transfer amount then pay for the transfer (this can be done using an electronic bank transfer, a debit card, or a credit card).
For basic transfers to a bank account, the company charges £1. For transfers through SWIFT, the company charges £12.
• Send money to 192+ countries
• Several delivery methods
• Not all transfer options are available to all countries
• Slow payment processing
How to send money on mobile?
I take the example of an online money transfer with Worldremit to guide you through the different steps of sending money on mobile wallet.
1: Enter the homepage of Worldremit
2: Choose a country to send to
3: Select a service
4: Choose "receive" for receiving money" or "send" for sending money
5: Enter the amount of money which you want to transfer
6: Choose the recipient
Worldremit asks you for the following required elements of the recipient: mobile phone number, first name, last name, email address (optionally), City
Worldremit has a well made Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section. Just as an extract, have a closer look on:
By the way, to get a general feeling about the fast development of the African mobile money market it is worth to have a closer look on this McKinsey article about "Mobile financial services in Africa: Winning the battle for the customer". This article provides many insights about the African financial market.