Subscriber base for non-bank mobile money services declined in the last quarter of 2019 by 13.0 percent to a total of 6.2 million subscribers, figures from the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) show.
In its 2019 Fourth Quarter National Payment System (NPS) Report issued Tuesday, RBM attributes the drop to the removal of dormant accounts on the mobile money platforms as was performed by the service providers during the quarter.
However, mobile money agent network grew by 4.0 percent to 52,200 registered agents in December 2019, increasing the number of access points across the country.
Similarly, the number of active agents rose by 10.7 percent to 33,920 during the same period, representing an activity rate of 65.0 percent of the total agent network which is slightly higher than the activity rate for subscribers.
“There is however, still much room for improvement in terms of activity at both subscriber and agent level if the country is to achieve a vibrant mobile payments ecosystem,” reads the report.
In terms of usage, mobile money transactions are dominated by airtime purchases and cash-in/out services.
This suggests that other available types of services such as utility and merchant payments are underutilised, as they currently account for less than 5 percent of the total number transactions.
However, business to business transactions are picking up processing 1.5 percent of the total volume and 20.6 percent of the total value of transactions.
Speaking in an interview Tuesday, ICT Association of Malawi president, Bram Fudzulani, said the drop in subscriber base is a threat to the national financial inclusion drive.
Fudzulani attributed the rise in dormant accounts to lack of incentives by service providers.
“Most of them [dormant subscribers] used the lines for a particular purpose including one-off transaction or for some cash transfer projects implemented by some organisations. After that, they become dormant,” Fudzulani said.
He said the market is monopolised, hence need for new firms to enter and improve competition.
Meanwhile, the subscriber base for internet banking services grew by 5.6 percent to a total of 197,565 in December 2019.
However, there was mixed performance with respect to usage as the volume rose by 6.9 percent to 601,097 transactions while the corresponding value of transactions declined by 8.6 percent to K665.3 billion during the same period.
This outturn suggests that more low value transactions were processed using internet banking services during the period compared to the third quarter of the year.
A yearly trend however shows that significant progress has been made in terms of usage of internet banking services by both retail and corporate subscribers as shown in Figure 5.
The total number of mobile banking subscribers also rose by 6.7 percent to 838,735 during the last quarter of 2019.
This is reflective of the fact that mobile banking is the more widely used bank-based digital channel, if compared to internet banking.
The volume and value of transactions processed through mobile banking increased by 13.5 percent and 57.6 percent to 7.1 million and K185.8 billion.
“As is the case with internet banking services, an 8 year trend with respect to usage of mobile banking services shows significant progress that has been achieved and this is expected to continue owing to ongoing efforts by all stakeholders in the provision of digital payment services,” the RBM report shows.