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Surprise! Guess Which Country is 2nd for Mobile Money Globally?

By Wayan Vota on April 10, 2013


We all know that M-PESA in Kenya dominates the mobile money conversation in Africa, where mobile banking has expanded to 16% of the market. So its easy to assume that Kenyans have the highest usage of mobile money anywhere in the world.

Look who is second on the list: Sudan!

Surprising eh? It shouldn’t be. Yes, only 13 per cent of South Sudan’s eight million people currently own a mobile phone, and there are fewer than 0.01% have bank accounts, but that looks like opportunity to mobile money operators. Zain already has 40% of the South Sudan mobile market and they predict that by 2016, mobile money will have a turnover of $1.03 billion.

Where is Tanzania?

When I mentioned this data on Twitter, Martin Warioba had an interesting response:

I am surprised that Tanzania doesn’t feature on the list. Is it possible to see data breakdown? I can see data collection being a challenge with #Tanzania. At times, it feels like it is a guess work.

I agree that the data feels suspect – how can Sudan have more mobile money activity than Tanzania? I have the same question about the Philippines, where GCash dominates. Yet here is the World Bank report, which on page 25 starts to detail the mobile money sector and looks to be legit.

So it is time to accept that Sudan is second in mobile money globally?

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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14 Comments to “Surprise! Guess Which Country is 2nd for Mobile Money Globally?”

  1. Victor says:

    Not a such a surprise when Sudan also includes South Sudan! Lots of donor funds and Kenyan entrepreneurs tapping into this.

  2. kachwanya says:

    I am not surprised by Sudan showing highly on the list. Remember most of the South Sudan people were in Kenya as refugees during the war and just moved back recently. So some of them started using the mobile money while still in Kenya and others adopted Kenyan way of life, making it easy for them to embrace mobile money the way Kenyans have done. I am also surprised that Tanzania is missing entirely from the list

  3. gridenko says:

    For clarity, Sudan is not South Sudan, the two are different countries. Sudan refers to the ‘northern’ part where Bashir is the president.

  4. Marquus says:

    There is no mobile payment system in South Sudan. The report refers to an altogether different country (Sudan) than the commentary

  5. Loretta Michaels says:

    I’m afraid the data source, the WB’s Global Findex database, has a lot of suspect figures in it, particularly with regard to mobile money.

  6. Wayan Vota says:

    Hey everyone, at the time of the report (before the separation) “Sudan” encompassed the full area of Sudan. I happened to focus on South Sudan as I think its the more interesting mobile money market now that the countries separated.

  7. eustace ndanga says:

    this is a good development for countries like somalia. there are so many pluses on using mobile phones or the Internet to send money to remote places, especially those who are far away from banks or where possessing hard cash is risky. generally, mobile money is cost effective.

  8. John Owens says:

    The other big surprises apart from Sudan are Gabon, Algeria, Albania, and Tajikistan which are all not really known for their mobile money platforms.

  9. Michel Stéphane Bruno says:

    What are those numbers? Number of subscribed users?

  10. Wayan Vota says:

    And to put these numbers in perspective, GSMA says there are more #MobileMoney users than Facebook users in SSA

  11. Wayan — this is a terrific list! It lends credence to the notion that mobile money addresses unique needs in conflict zones. Five of the top ten fit this characterization: Sudan, Algeria Congo Rep., Somalia, Albania. Thanks ICTWorks!

  12. Wayan,

    Thanks for pointing out this survey information. I think that this is great as a first step in quantifying mobile money and giving us much more of a clear idea what is actually happening beyond the hype.

    At the same time, while the Gallup organization (which did the actual data collection) definitely knows what it’s doing, keep in mind that in this case only about 1000 people were interviewed per country. In a country of roughly 160 million people like Nigeria that is only 0.000625% of the population. In Kenya, with 40 million people, it’s 0.0025%. With such small sample sizes, there’s a pretty high likelihood of “sampling error”: ie, that the data collected doesn’t actually represent what’s happening in the country.

    Again, that’s not to say that this isn’t a great first step (any date is better than no data at all!), but to point out that even for something as important for development and the world economy as mobile money, we are still far from being certain about what is actually happening out there.


    • Wayan Vota says:

      I make no representations about the accuracy of the data beyond the fact that the World bank felt it was accurate enough to endorse.

      Having said that, I do find it highly suspect as it doesn’t conform to my previous worldview. That doesn’t mean my worldview was right (or that this data is right) but I do think its a good starting point for us to think about mobile money spreading beyond just those countries we hear about too often.