CGAP, the global microfinance center is releasing new research and data to encourage telecom operators, financial institutions and governments to see the business potential in expanding access to financial services for poor people in developing markets. The current economic climate makes the need for widespread availability of safe alternatives to cash even more pressing.
The biggest mobile banking success to date has been M-PESA in Kenya, which is 45% cheaper than other transfer services. A forthcoming independent survey finds 83% of users say not having M-PESA would have a "large negative impact" on their lives.
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Though these are encouraging numbers, CGAP has found globally that so far m-banking has yet to reach its full potential. Fewer than one in ten mobile phone banking customers are poor, new to banking, and doing anything more than payments and transfers.
"Mobile banking can move beyond simple transaction accounts to offer a flexible platform that will meet poor people's needs, while at the same time providing a new source of growth for providers," said Littlefield. "All the pieces are now coming into place for mobile banking to transform the way people get banking services in emerging markets."
There are other potential opportunities for service providers to help address the needs of the poor while growing new business. CGAP estimates that 150 million poor people around the world receive regular social welfare payments from their governments. Yet fewer than 25% of beneficiaries receive their benefit into a bank account through which they could save, make payments and build assets.
"Imagine if such payments could be delivered using magnetic stripe cards linked to a bank account -- or through a mobile phone. This could mean beneficiaries would suddenly have access to a full range of valuable services, such as savings," said Littlefield.
Banking beyond branches -- by the numbers
- In the Philippines, a bank branch transaction costs US$2.50 but only US$0.50 if on a mobile phone, and some m-banking commissions still fall short of what merchants earn from other products -- for example; toothpaste, 10-12% margin; performing a mobile banking cash-in transaction; just 1%.
- In Pakistan, the cost of setting up and operating an agent is 76 times lower than that of a bank branch.
- Brazil is probably the most developed market where correspondent banking has taken hold: More than 70 institutions are currently managing around 105,000 agents reaching nearly 6,000 municipalities.
CGAP's technology program is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Source: Cellular News.