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MENA: The Final Mobile Money Frontier
By admin February 8, 2018

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The mobile money industry has had a fantastic decade. We have seen how one connected handset can transform the life of not just its owner, but also the lives of his or her family and broader community. A mere ten years after M-Pesa launched in Kenya, the mobile money industry now celebrates an impressive decade and replicated technologies that offer new financial service products to a variety of communities. However, the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region has not seen the same widespread success that mobile money has had on closing the financial inclusion gap in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

 

Beyond financial inclusion, mobile money contributes to 11 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, lessening inequality by enabling households to lift themselves out of poverty and empowering underserved segments of the population.

 

Looking ahead, collaborative efforts between policy makers and financial institutions will open the mobile money industry to the MENA region. By enabling people to store and transact money in digital form, hundreds of millions of underserved people are safer; more productive with their time and their money; and, able to take advantage of increased socio-economic opportunities.

 

Analysis of the available Findex data, as shown in a joint Arab Monetary Fund-CGAP report on financial inclusion measurement in the Arab world, points to a large unmet demand for financial services. Namely, household data requesting formal financial services and small savings opportunities. Moving forward, what challenges and opportunities face government and financial institutions that hope to replicate the decade of success that mobile money has had in other regions?

 

Interoperability

Mobile money-friendly policies require mandating interoperability among mobile payment service providers. Interoperability ensures that synergies occur between multiple telecommunications and financial institution stakeholders on individual mobile devices. Notable examples in the MENA region, such as Jordan and Qatar, have shown improvements in including new mobile money financial products to customers by mandating interoperability.

 

Jordan now allows both refugees and nationals to open e-wallets, after taking the bold bet of authorizing interoperability among mobile payment service providers from the first day of operations (unlike in many other countries, where interoperability may take years). Qatar, which like many GCC countries hosts large numbers of migrant workers, made remittances through mobile easy and cheap, improving the lives of thousands throughout the region and beyond.

 

Opportunities for New Data

Taking the initiative by developing mobile money-friendly policies, law makers have a unique opportunity to gather gender-disaggregated data on financial inclusion. By taking this opportunity, it would allow for more targeted policies to nudge social norms on broader women’s legal and economic rights. Even where regulation and infrastructure are in place, financial inclusion stakeholders have yet to witness success stories and market gaps being truly addressed.

 

Moving Forward

Looking ahead, synchronization of policies and data are crucial to take the mobile money industry to the next level. The consensus surrounding mobile money access within the MENA region is that there is an untapped market and a huge opportunity to bring adapted financial services to those who need them in the region. The shift in discourse among policymakers creates challenges surrounding interoperability. The possible mandates have the potential to create equal access to financial services among public and private spheres. Additionally, fact-based policies are essential to advance financial inclusion. The untapped potential of the MENA region and mobile money extends beyond increased access to formal financial services. By instituting mobile money-friendly policies, opportunities for policymakers to gather gender-specific data that lends itself to country-specific gender-equality movements are created.

 

For More Information:

To the Future and Back: Financial Inclusion in the Arab World

The Challenges of Financial Inclusion in MENA Region

Measuring Financial Inclusion Around the World

Financial Inclusion in the Middle East and North Africa: Analysis and Roadmap Recommendations

 


Thanks for sharing !


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