There's been a great deal of excitement over the last few years regarding the potential for mobile money to solve a host of development problems. An increasing number of post-conflict countries are all experimenting with or thinking about mobile money implementations. In addition to the normal issues and challenges facing policymakers and service providers, post-conflict and post-disaster countries face additional problems that merely serve to exacerbate the overall challenges with mobile money.
As we look globally for innovative business models and technologies, it’s a shame how little we (as two Americans) focus on our backyard in the U.S. Despite our comfort drawing similarities and lessons across markets as different as Brazil, India, and Kenya, we seem to assume that the U.S., with its technology and banking infrastructure, relative wealth, and uniquely complex regulatory context, is truly different. To test this and see what we might uncover “locally,” we attended the 6th Annual Underbanked Financial Services Forum in June to learn more about the state of the art in the domestic financial inclusion world and look for ways where global and local conversations overlap and can be integrated.
Cell phone use generates data – from basic call data records, to mobile money transactional data, to data from social media usage and so on -- that leaves what can be called a ‘digital footprint.’ The existence of this data is quite extraordinary for those of us interested in developing services for the poor and people with little or no formal financial access. In other words, it is available in a way that can be analyzed.
In March 2008, the State Bank of Pakistan introduced some of the first regulations anywhere in the world designed specifically to encourage branchless banking. The regulations allowed a number of different business models and permitted agents to deliver financial services on behalf of banks.
Access to finance in WAEMU is very low, even by comparison to other regions of Africa. The rate of bancarization announced by the BCEAO in December 2010 was 9.5% and 12.7% of the population had an account with an MFI.
We need to start treating willpower as a scarce and important resource. That’s the point pushed in a recent New Republic piece on “What can’t more poor people escape poverty?” And it’s a product opportunity for those designing financial services for the poor.
South Africa has often been used as a case study by those with an interest in financial inclusion. The country has an advanced banking infrastructure with nearly 10,000 ATMs and over 100,000 POS devices deployed.
This is the third posting in a mini-series in which we present new evidence from three countries on whether branchless banking is reaching poor people. This post looks at Orange Money in Mali. Previous posts looked at India and Pakistan.