2011-07-14

  • Airtime to Cash: Unlocking the Potential of Africa’s Mobile Phones for Banking the Unbanked – Alex Comninos, Steve Esselaar, Ali Ndiwalana and Christoph Stork examine the potential for advanced mobile banking services in Africa. In most countries, more people have a mobile phone than a bank account, the latter mostly due to a lack of regular income. Airtime transfers are commonly used in most countries, mostly to send money to family and friends, but in some instances also to pay for goods and services. They propose two schemes for mobile banking services as alternatives to current banking by linking an existing phone to a bank account, and not vice-versa as value-added service. Airtime-cash convertibility using a singly SIM card-linked account would cause problems with mobile operators needing bank licenses, VATs on transactions, and value loss in the distribution process. “Mobile wallets” with several sub-accounts on one SIM card might solve some of these issues. The authors find that potential acceptance of such a service is high in some countries.

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