Ericsson: Majority of Sub-Saharan mobile financial services accessed via agents, not phone

Ericsson said uptake of device-based mobile money services in Sub-Saharan Africa is being hindered by barriers including a lack of awareness of what's on offer, and a want of understanding of the benefits of mobile money.

While a survey conducted in five of the region's major markets revealed that high numbers of people in Sub-Saharan Africa are unbanked -- meaning they have no access to regular bank accounts -- and that most of those consumers access mobile money services via an agent, the research showed that less than a quarter regularly access such services on a mobile phone.

Ericsson's ConsumerLab division quizzed 6,215 consumers aged between 17 and 59 in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda. The majority of respondents (63 per cent) are unbanked, and 52 per cent utilise agent-based mobile money services.

However, the study revealed that only 20 per cent use mobile phone-based money services.

Ericsson said that 4 in 10 people from lower socio-economic groups in the region lack the basic prerequisites to start their own mobile money account, including a valid form of identification or ownership of a mobile phone. The ConsumerLab study also found that some consumers are simply unaware of the mobile money services on offer, while those who are aware of the services consider them unnecessary or too complicated to use.

Patrik Hedlund, senior advisor at Ericsson ConsumerLab, said cash today remains the main form of making and receiving payments for unbanked consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa, despite mobile financial services offering a step towards financial inclusion.

"Lower income people and the unbanked are the ones who are least involved in the formal financial system, due to factors such as distance to banks, education, and the inability to authenticate their identity," Hedlund noted.

While the report highlighted the barriers to accessing mobile money services on a mobile device, it also flagged up that mobile money agents are driving users towards such services.

Of the 20 per cent that currently utilise a mobile device to access financial services, a fifth were made aware of the service by an agent, Ericsson stated.

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