Pandemic Spurs Use of Digital Payments in Africa

ADDIS ABABA – Mobile money adoption in Sub-Saharan Africa has surged significantly after the Covid-19 pandemic spurred financial inclusion globally, a new survey issued by the World Bank noted.

The Global Findex 2021 database, published this week, said the global expansion of formal financial services spurred by the pandemic created new economic opportunities.



As of 2021, the Findex survey noted that 76% of adults globally now have an account at a bank, other financial institution, or with a mobile money provider, up from 68% in 2017 and 51% in 2011. 

The growth in account ownership was evenly distributed across many more countries after previous surveys reported much-concentrated growth in India and China.

This year’s survey found that the percentage of account ownership increased by double digits in 34 countries since 2017, attributing the increased use of digital payments to the pandemic. 

Two-thirds of adults worldwide now make or receive a digital payment, with the share in developing economies growing from 35% in 2014 to 57% in 2021. 

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Findex said mobile money accounts drove a huge increase in financial inclusion. At least 33% of adults in the continent now have a mobile money account – a share three times larger than the 10% global average. 

Mobile money services in Africa were originally designed to allow people to send remittances to friends and family living elsewhere within the country.

However, the adoption and usage have spread beyond those origins, such that 3-out-of-4 mobile account owners in 2021 made or received at least one payment that was not person-to-person, according to Findex. 

At least 15% of adults also used their mobile money account to save last year.



The survey also sees opportunities in the need to increase account ownership in the region including digitalizing cash payments for the 65 million adults with no account receiving payments for agricultural products, and expanding mobile phone ownership, as lack of a phone is cited as a barrier to mobile money account adoption. 

Adults in the region also worry more about paying school fees than adults in other regions, suggesting opportunities for policy or products to enable education-oriented savings, the survey found.

The Global Findex database, which surveyed how people in 123 economies use financial services throughout 2021, is produced by the World Bank every three years in collaboration with Gallup, Inc.

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