Somalia could upset Kenya’s mobile money dominance

A report by World Bank Rapid Growth in Mobile Money: Stability or Vulnerability suggests that the Somalia has the potential to emerge as the biggest mobile money market in Africa, with the number of mobile money transactions in Somalia surpassing that of Kenya.

The Central Bank of Kenya puts the country’s mobile money transactions at 137.4 million transactions worth Kshs 317.6 billion (US$ 3.17 million) in June 2018. Somalia’s transactions were recorded at 155 million transactions worth US$ 2.7 million in the months of 2017, according to the report.

The data suggests that there are more transactions in Somalia, but with less volume than in Kenya.

Tim Kelly, Lead ICT policy specialist at the World Bank, said, “Private sector actors have given Somalia a unique opportunity to leapfrog towards widespread financial inclusion.”

The report added that mobile money has superseded the use of cash with over 70% of adult Somalis using mobile money services regularly.

In addition to retail payments, mobile money is used for salary transfers, bill payments, remittances and cash transfers, and savings in mobile wallets.

However, there are vulnerabilities in the mobile money market most notably a lack of oversight by the Central Bank of Somalia, of consumer protection and know-your-customer requirements.

“Stability of the overall financial system is a priority. A phased approach to regulation is recommended to mitigate risks and allow time for implementation for both the regulator and the sector,” the report said.

“The regulatory policy stance should also permit greater innovation, by allowing experimentation in pilots without the need to fully comply with regulatory requirements (an approach known as the regulatory ‘sandbox’ approach). This approach is likely to help refine the regulatory framework,” it suggested.

The World Bank suggested that Somali could use Kenya’s blueprint on how to introduce regulations around mobile money.

According to Kelly, the organisation would help the Central Bank of Somalia and the National Communication Authority to devise an appropriate regulatory framework.

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