Vodafone group director of mobile money, Michael Joseph, hailed strong growth for the company's M-Pesa service after the number of active users grew by more than a quarter to 25.3 million in the year to end-March.
Joseph said that M-Pesa has grown beyond its original remit of providing simple money transfer services to consumers, as the company revealed that the number of active users grew by 27.1 per cent in the 12 months to Mar. 31.
"Since 2007, M-Pesa has enhanced the lives and livelihoods of people without bank accounts, giving them access to essential financial services through their mobile phones," Joseph said.
The Vodafone executive added that the operator has expanded the reach of M-Pesa "to encompass savings and loans, payment of salaries and benefits, settlement of utility bills and school fees, and to enable vital health and agricultural solutions."
In a statement, Vodafone announced that the strong growth was boosted by the launch of M-Pesa in markets including Albania and Ghana. By the end of March, the service was backed by a network of 261,000 agents in 11 countries, the operator said.
The strong growth makes M-Pesa the largest mobile payments platform in emerging markets, the Financial Times reported. Joseph told the newspaper that Vodafone is discussing expanding the service into additional markets through partnerships with other operators, building on its existing deals with 37 partner companies in 57 countries.
Vodafone said M-Pesa's growth was fuelled by the addition of new services in India, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya.
The operator agreed key government partnerships in Lesotho and Kenya in the past 12 months. It also agreed partnerships with international money transfer hubs TransferTo and MFS For Africa, and MTN Mobile Money, launched international money transfer services in Romania, Lesotho and Albania, and struck interoperability deals with other operators in Tanzania.
Globally, the number of mobile money accounts registered hit 411 million in 2015, the GSMA announced in February. Almost 100 million new accounts were registered during the year, at least half of which were in sub-Saharan Africa.
However, Ericsson in March cast doubt on the success of mobile money services in that region. A ConsumerLab study of 6,215 consumers aged between 17 and 59 in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda found that 20 per cent used phone-based mobile money services, compared to 52 per cent that use agent-based services.
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