Panel 26

Mobile Money and Digitization of Financial Transactions in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA): A Pathway out of Poverty through Financial Inclusion

Conference Sub-Theme: The changing flows of resources and capital

Panel organiser: Franklyn Lisk, Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation, Politics and International Studies Department and Africa Lead - Global Research Priority on International Development, University of Warwick, UK.

E-mail: f.lisk@warwick.ac.uk

There are good reasons to believe that Africa should take advantage of the digital revolution sweeping through the continent to promote financial inclusion as a pathway out of poverty for the estimated 330 million “unbanked” Africans – about 80 per cent of the region’s working-age population – who presently use no formal or informal financial services. The widespread and still increasing use of mobile phones in SSA has resulted in the rapid digitization of commercial and financial transactions across all countries in the region. This trend is now paving the way for ‘de-cashing’ of national economies,  in the sense of the gradual phasing out of the use of currency in circulation and its replacement by mobile money and various forms of digitized convertible bank transfers. Available evidence from the contemporary African scene indicates a variety of digital payment and money transfer systems like the M-Pesa which originated in Kenya a decade ago in 2007, EcoCash, and local versions of E-Wallet mobile money account.

The panel invites papers that will address various aspects of how the increasing use of mobile and digital money in financial and commercial transactions in Africa impacts on the reduction of poverty and inequality, through financial inclusion (i.e. bringing hundreds of millions of hitherto financially excluded Africans into profitable and active participation in different sectors and levels of national and regional economies). Additionally, the panel  seeks contributions on   how the drive towards a cashless or ‘cash-lite’ society, resulting from mobile money  and  digitization, can curb corruption through reducing the incidence of illicit financial flows and ‘black economy’ transactions (which tend to thrive on unrecorded cash transactions) and boosting state revenue collection.

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