From music to movies, from banking to buying food, mobile phones have revolutionized the way we access the world today. But for low-income consumers in emerging markets, the full potential of mobile financial services is yet to be unlocked, a new report suggests.
Despite the growth in smartphone adoption and mobile payment systems in many countries, telecom operators and regulators were yet to invest in products and distribution models that would cater for largely underserved or unbanked consumers. The report from Swedish insurance technology company BIMA surveyed 4,000 low-income respondents in 10 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. BIMA notes that the lack of synergy between regulators and operators in emerging markets has also undermined the development of mobile solutions for complex services such as healthcare, insurance, and savings.
In emerging markets, formal banking reaches about 37% of the population, compared with a 50% penetration rate for mobile phones financial systems, according to global management consultancy McKinsey. This constitutes 2.2 billion adults who don’t use banks or micro-financial institutions in the world—more than 326 million of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa. If companies are able to successfully tap into these unbanked consumers, that will constitute a “second wave” of mobile financial services, where customers move beyond using mobile as a channel for just payments.