The push for financial inclusion is continuing apace in Ghana with plans for the implementation of mobile money interoperability. Financial inclusion has been growing healthily in the country, thanks largely to the success of its mobile money system. In 2011 just 29% of the population was banked. By 2014 the figure had reached 41%, according to the World Bank, which was well above that year’s sub-Saharan Africa average of 34%. By 2017 the share of the adult population with access to formal banking services was 58%. While this growth is impressive, the country still lags the leading market on the continent, Kenya, where 75% of adults have a financial account, according to a 2017 report from the Brookings Institution.
The government is pushing to increase the banked adult population to 75% by 2023, and is working on a national financial inclusion strategy that relies heavily on technology. The deputy minister of finance, Abena Osei Asare, said in April 2017 that the strategy would support “the use of technologically driven delivery channels that will serve consumers better.” In the longer term, the ambition is to offer virtual services on a par with those in developed economies. “The government has ambitions of moving Ghana into a cashless society,” Chris-Samson Andoh, managing director of local financial technology firm TechFin Innovations, told OBG.
Ghana has already taken the first steps on this road. In 2015 the Bank of Ghana introduced regulations for the launch of mobile money, and a year later 13% of Ghanaians were using mobile banking services. This compares favourably with the sub-Saharan average of 12%, while only 2% of Nigerians use mobile money services. The industry has grown rapidly, with the total value of transactions rising by 20% in the first half of 2016 to GHS679.17m ($162.6m).
“In order to reach the unbanked segments of the population, telecoms are taking the lead, as they benefit from geographic coverage that allows them to acquire new customers at a low cost,” Samuel Tettey Amanor, CEO of Bluespace Africa, told OBG. For example, MTN Ghana managed to grow its mobile money subscriptions by 79% in 2016, ending the year with 5.7m subscribers. Mobile money services now account for 13% of the operator’s revenues in the country. Vodafone has also launched a mobile banking service, Vodafone Cash, which is based on its Kenyan M-Pesa platform. The service launched in December 2015 and had some 280,000 users by September 2016.
The latest policy by the government is set to support the growth of mobile money operations by the smaller providers. Mobile money interoperability was due to be launched in November 2017, allowing subscribers to transfer money to different mobile networks domestically. Given that MTN Ghana has a market share of over 50% in data services, interoperability will disproportionately support subscribers who use other networks, as it will allow mobile transfers across the whole mobile-using population.
The variety of available services is also expanding and maturing. For example, in September 2016 the Bank of Ghana gave the green light to interest payments for mobile banking deposits. By April 2017 MTN Ghana had already paid out GHS45m ($10.8m) to its mobile money subscribers.
Furthermore, the expanding operations of mobile telecoms companies in this sector are spurring the growth of ancillary services. For example, TechFin Innovations is set to launch a prepaid card that will be tied to customers’ mobile banking accounts. This will extend the range of mobile money accounts, allowing subscribers to pay for goods and services both online and at point of sale, and to withdraw money from ATMs using the card. Such services, based purely on the customer’s mobile account, will allow the unbanked population to complete a wide range of financial transactions and give them the same opportunity as the banked population. “Within five years I think most people will be on non-banking platforms,” Andoh told OBG.