Mobile money penetration in South Africa is still lagging behind most prominent African markets. Only 7.6% of adults in the country reportedly had a registered mobile money account by the end of 2014, putting it at the bottom four among 18 top countries.

This was revealed in the GSMA Mobile Economy Africa 2015 report released today which looks at trends in the Africa mobile industry over the last year and predictions for the upcoming years leading up to 2020.

According to the report, there are 76 registered accounts for every 1 000 adults in the country.

The 18 African countries compared in the report include: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Botswana, Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Cameroon, Madagascar, Mauritius, Gabon and Malawi.

Of the 18, Tanzania topped the list of most accounts, with 1 208 registered accounts per 1 000 adults, while South Africa came in 15th place ahead of Nigeria, Gabon and Namibia.

The report also revealed that by December 2014, 23% of mobile connections in Sub-Saharan Africa were linked with a mobile money account. In East Africa, Africa’s biggest mobile money market region, there was one mobile money account for every two mobile connections.

The GSMA attributes Tanzania’s high mobile money penetration to interoperability and the role it plays in realising the full potential of mobile money.

“Tanzania introduced interoperability on a market-led basis in August 2014.  Collaboration between mobile money providers in the form of interoperability is essential to the development of ecosystem services across multiple verticals.  It can be instrumental in developing various ecosystem services from which mobile money providers and third-party organisations can benefit, either by using it as a payment mechanism or by leveraging mobile money accounts,” the report highlighted.

For growth to be realised in markets such as South Africa, a regulatory environment that supports the growth of mobile money services and increased financial inclusion is required, the association said.

It also suggests that banks and governments allow mobile operators to take the lead in the deployment of innovative services to widen the platform for new products to be launched in the market.

[source – GSMA Mobile Economy Africa 2015, image – CC by 2.0/gail]