Growing money on mobile phones

Lynesss Nkungula

In September 2012, Mathews Nkhani, a Zomba resident, did not expect to make a fortune out of his first mobile phone when he registered as a mobile money agent with Airtel Money.

By then, his card was number eight, but he did not know the other seven Airtel Money agents in the old capital.

“In 2012, I considered myself as the first one in Zomba but I realised there were seven other agents.


“During the first days, you would only have three customers during the whole day. Then the business grew bigger in 2014. Just in 10 minutes, you could serve seven to 10 people and find others still waiting for you,” he said.

By now, Zomba central business district has over 50 mobile money agents.

Figures show that, by October 24 2019 mobile money wallet subscription hit Seven million in Malawi, a country with a population of 18 million.


Bankers Association of Malawi Chief Executive Officer Lyness Nkungula has since described the growing numbers of people using mobile money services as a milestone.

“This is good news as it means more and more customers are coming on board in terms of digital finance. The synergies between the banks and the mobile money operators are working even better as the combined effect is greater than the sum of the individual ones,” she said.

Nkungula also says commercial banks are committed to contributing towards the national financial inclusion agenda.

“Indications are already there, through baseline surveys, that, as a country, we are making strides in financial inclusion. The banks are the vehicles of financial inclusion that come up with products that are customer centric,” Nkungula says.

“We need to stop moving with cash and start transacting with cards,” she added.

The mobile money sector in Malawi was launched in early 2012.

Tricksters have, however, been involved in stealing money from users using different tricks.

Over the years, Africa has emerged as a global leader in mobile money.

By March 2022, the continent was still dominating with around 621 million of those accounts, and with customer growth of 17 percent in the region from the previous year.

According to MNS Consulting, mobile money has been a success story in Africa due to a safe and quick money transfer solution to unbanked and underbanked people.

As a result, in early 2015, there were about 270 mobile money services in more than 80 markets worldwide, half of them located in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the United Nations Capital Development Fund, GSMA data show the first mobile money provider launched in East Asia and the Pacific in 2001. However it was M-PESA’s March 2007 launch in Kenya that popularised the model.

Since then, in 2011, five years after M-PESA launched in Kenya, GSMA’s State of the Industry Report that year identified only eight fast-growing operations globally, six of which were in East Africa.

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