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‘Cash is Africa’s king despite mobile money rise’

By , IT in government editor
Africa , 22 Oct 2014

‘Cash is Africa’s king despite mobile money rise’

Over 25 million Kenyans use mobile money services but one expert says “cash is still king” in most of the continent.

Services such as Safaricom’s M-Pesa have taken off on a continent where the African Development Bank says only 20% of African families have bank accounts

However, Vahid Monadjem - who is the co-founder and chief executive officer of informal market payments tech firm Nomanini - says that while mobile money has been growing rapidly, cash still remains the primary mechanism for daily transactions in Africa.

Nomanini further specialises in cash-based point-of-sale platforms, building tools to facilitate cash payments and has partnerships in Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and Mozambique.

“Mobile money, while undoubtedly achieving impressive growth across Africa, is really still in its infancy,” said Monadjem.

“Unfortunately, many of the statistics surrounding the number of mobile money transactions taking place in countries like Kenya are misleading,” he said.

Despite the likes of Safaricom winning global acclaim for reach over 20 million of the country’s mobile money users with M-Pesa, similar services have struggled to gain traction in bigger markets such as South Africa and Nigeria.

Monadjem also says that the vast majority of Safaricom’s mobile airtime is purchased with cash.

"We need to continue to build on the gains in digital money with an appreciation of the realities of these markets. Cash is definitely still king," Monadjem explained.

He also told ITWeb Africa that interoperability is one of the myths of mobile money solutions.

“I think the interoperability discussion is focusing on the wrong area.

“There is much talk about enabling interoperability between mobile money wallets, which is important, but I think there could be more focus on interoperability with cash. Cash is the incumbent payment method and we are too quick to assume its irrelevance.”

Monadjem concluded by saying that mobile money solutions could eventually reach maturity on the continent.

“My definition of maturity for mobile money is when people are able to and do pay for their daily needs using mobile money in transactions of $1-$2.

“This requires merchants and agents to facilitate these transactions and do so for small amounts, which requires fast, easy transactions.

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