By Taonga Sabola:
The number of subscribers for the country’s mobile money schemes rose by 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018 to hit 5.6 million, figures from the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) have shown.
In its National Payment Systems (NPS) report for the fourth quarter, RBM, however, says activity rates for subscribers continue to be low as 41.1 percent of the mobile money subscribers who used the service during the quarter under review.
The report says, although this represents an improvement from 32.6 percent recorded at end of December 2017, there is need for more interventions to increase activity of customers using mobile money for payment of goods and services.
In terms of the gender balance, the report says there has been a slight improvement in the reported number of females subscribing to mobile money services compared to males, thereby slowly closing the gender gap.
“For instance, the gender gap decreased to 18.6 percent in December 2018 from 25.8 percent in December 2017. This is a good development as women constitute 51 percent of the country’s population and, therefore, their participation in financial transactions must be encouraged if the country is to achieve financial inclusion,” reads the report in part.
It adds that there was a 3.7 percent increase in the number of agents who facilitate delivery of mobile money services, to a total of 39,434 in December 2018.
RBM says this reflects efforts by service providers to increase access points for their services across the country.
“However, the distribution of these agents remains heavily skewed towards urban and semi-urban areas as 77 percent of them are in urban and semi-urban areas whereas only 23 percent are based in rural areas.
“With the majority of the country’s total population based in the rural areas, there is need for concerted efforts by all stakeholders to increase deployment of access points in rural areas so that more people have access to secure and affordable payments channels,” RBM says.
The report notes that major challenges of usage of mobile money service in the country are high inactivity rates among subscribers and sparse availability of agents in rural areas.
In terms of usage, mobile money services continue to be dominated by cash in/out transactions and airtime top ups.
“However, it is pleasing to note that business to business (B2B) transactions contributed a sizeable 23.1 percent of the total value of mobile money payment transaction during the period under review.
“This suggests that, in addition to individuals, businesses are also adopting mobile money for payment of goods and services and they tend to have a higher average value per transaction than individuals,” the report says.
Malawi has two mobile money schemes in TNM Mpamba and Airtel Money.