Banks Panic Over Mobile Money Explosion

Banks in Ghana have been urged to take advantage of the growing subscriber base of Mobile Money customers and not see it as a competition but an avenue to help reduce the large unbanked population in the country. Currently, over 76 percent of Ghana�s adult population is unbanked, according to the World Bank. However, new figures released by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) under the supervision of the World Bank shows that mobile money penetration in the financial sector is growing at a an exponential rate. By July 2015 when the BoG passed a new regulation, there were 4 million mobile money accounts, 2.5 times as many in 2014. Whereas the traditional banking sector grew marginally from 34 percent to 36 percent between 2010 and 2015, mobile money expansion under the same period grew by 29 percent. Stakeholders in the financial sector, including the BoG are still deliberating on how to reward Mobile Money customers with interest payment, but the topic has been vehemently opposed by some banks� fearing the telecos may take way the duties of traditional banks. In a sharp disagreement, the Financial Sector Specialist of CGAP, Peter Zetterli speaking in a dialogue conference in Accra maintained that �there is enough on the table for all the players to benefit�. �Traditional Banks should not see the explosion in the Mobile Money service as a threat�rather they should be innovative and take advantage of the reach of these telecommunication networks to improve the livelihood of the poor and vulnerable�, he added. He stated that Ghana is likely to accelerate financial inclusion among the informal sector if adequate attention is directed at Mobile Money services and non-bank financial institutions. Chamber of Telecommunications On his part, the CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo stated that there should be a minimal influence from government to allow the market shape itself into growth. �I agree with everybody that the regulator must perform his oversight responsibilities but I also hold the strong view that less interference is needed to cause the explosion that we need�, he stressed. CGAP�s findings The research pointed out that even though countries such as Kenya and Tanzania have high penetration rates of financial inclusion through Mobile Money services, Ghana has better base conditions to ignite a massive explosion ever seen on the continent. The findings showed that mobile financial services are proving to be a critical link that could connect people in rural areas or living on less than $2.50 per day with formal financial services. Also, there are 10 million registered Mobile Money accounts with 44,000 active Mobile Money agents across the country. Per month, Mobile Money transaction is estimated at 900 million US dollars (GHS3.4bn) with a 100 million dollar worth of Mobile Money wallet balances. According to the research, Ghanaians are mobile ready, in that 92 percent have the required form of identification to open an account, while 95 percent, 91 percent, and 74 percent are numerate, own a mobile phone and have sent or received text messages respectively. Also, 59 percent of adults pay for insurance, but only 0.1 percent do so via mobile money.