It’s been more than ten years since Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom launched M-PESA, one of the first digital finance innovations to hit the developing world. Since then banks, mobile network operators, FinTechs, and other third party organizations have followed suit and now offer a range of digital financial services to underserved customers. Mobile phones enabled Africans to leapfrog the inaccessible and underdeveloped landline networks. Similarly, digital finance has enabled many to bypass the often unreachable and impenetrable banking system. Digital technology and innovation have brought financial services deep into rural, hard-to-reach, poor areas. This access has given digital finance a leading role in the journey to financial inclusion in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.
While access to these services has continued to grow, meaningful use of the available digital financial services has struggled to keep pace. Despite significant annual increases in account registration, there is a growing gap between adoption and use. At the end of 2016, only 21% (118 million) of the 556 million globally registered mobile money accounts were used more than once a month (GSMA). In this snapshot, The Mastercard Foundation Partnership for Finance in a Digital Africa explore where digital finance has successfully addressed financial needs, and where it is struggling to beat existing informal and formal alternatives.