Why a unified database of mobile users could mean an economic boom in Africa

mobile money Africa

Ambivalence. Chaos. Transformation. In three words, could possibly explain the past 50 years of Africa.

In a continent marred by strife that undermines the Millennium Development Goals, a lot is left to be desired. Many are quick to point fingers at the less bothered dominating class, whose economic decisions have an adverse effect on the economy. Their decisions are sired by massive greed, characterized by corruption and anomalies in service delivery. The disposition of punitive laws fuels the strife even more.

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In the recent past, Africa’s quick adoption of technology as a key factor of innovation has aided in covering the void left by the giant slumber taken during the agrarian and industrial revolutions.
One of the key strengths is that most of this innovation is digital. In fact it’s low tech, the cost of implementation vis-à-vis benefits accrued is invariable. High tech wouldn’t hurt the long term benefits either.

Undeniably, money is the lifeline of any economy. Pitfalls in its transfer could mean adverse effects to an economy. Where the majority of the population is unbanked perhaps due to high costs of using banks, the advent of mobile money has empowered the majority to enjoy banking services via mobile transactions.

In Uganda for example, a simple text message represents a quantum shift in connectivity. More than a third of the population has mobile phones, which are widely shared. They are dominated by feature phones of at least $7 which can dial voice, send text or perhaps have a flashlight. Smart phones, too, are on a steady rise because widespread drop in prices. This is just what is needed for to make a mobile transaction. The cash flow has fueled trade, promoted development as well as security of money for future investment.

One of the reasons why mobile money was such a huge success in Kenya is because the government had a database of its citizens and it was therefore easy for them to be integrated into the telcos’ system. Albeit, the jumbled systems, mobile money is thriving in various countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria among others.

The collective efforts by the East African Community to register SIM-cards is a positive move to the realization of a unified database, from which, analysis of consumer behaviour is based to advance services such as loans, track fraud and money laundering consequently cutting out red tape and corruption. Achievement of this would be through such strategic partnerships and massive sensitization.

The legitimacy of how mobile money has transformed sectors of economies is attested by its application in countries such as Afghanistan, where; the ghost civil workers were weeded out of the national payroll system by direct payments of salaries through mobile money, similarly Kenya’s blockbuster, M-Pesa through an initiative, M-Kopa, seeks to empower rural dwellers with solar-powered lamps on a hire purchase basis but payments being made via mobile money. And also, the day-to-day mobile transactions in eCommerce, money transfers, utility payments et al.

Mobile money in this case is the “invisible hand” that brings all sectors of the economy to a common understanding cutting out stumbling blocks such as corruption and embezzlement to the advantage economic stability and growth.

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