Mobile money use on the rise

Agents shun rural areas


Uptake of mobile money services surged during the last quarter of 2020, thanks to a rise in the number of agents especially in urban areas.

However, the number of subscribers went down marginally during the period under review.

A recent National Payment Systems report from the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) shows that subscribers for non-bank mobile money services dropped by 2.2 percent to 7.6 million by end of fourth quarter of 2020.


However, the report says activity rate for mobile money subscribers increased to 72.3 percent in December 2020 from 62.1 percent in September.

Number of registered mobile money agents rose by 6.4 percent to a total of 80,642 by December 2020.

The central bank has, however, lamented that most mobile money agents are based in urban and semi-urban areas, frustrating strides made the financial inclusion drive.


“This calls for more deliberate interventions by service providers and other stakeholders towards the rural areas in order to increase both the footprint of agents as well as incentivising them to remain active,” the report reads.

Only 22.8 percent (about 18,405) of registered agents are geographically located in rural areas according to the report.

It says only 63.6 percent of agents based in rural areas were active over a 90-day period compared to 78.1 percent (62,237) of those based in urban and semi-urban areas.

Malawi has two mobile money service providers, TNM Mpamba and Airtel Money.

Airtel Money Director Polycarp Ndekana said the uneven distribution is largely attributed to the attractiveness of urban areas due to economic activities which drive earning levels.

“We have a campaign to recruit agents at every trading centre in rural areas,” Ndekana said.

The report says transactions on mobile money platforms are dominated by business-to-business and airtime top-ups in terms of value and volume of transactions, respectively.

Person to person transfers, bank push/pull, and transactions across networks (off-net) and merchant payments have also contributed more in terms of their proportion to total transactions processed during the period under review.

Most Malawians are un-bankable and mobile money services are believed to be one of the tools which will drive financial inclusion.

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