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What Are the Top 4 Mobile Money Purchases by African Youth?

By Wayan Vota on January 15, 2020

mobile money program

Digital financial services in sub-Saharan Africa are changing rapidly with diversity in usage and uptake on such a diverse continent. Recently, GeoPoll embarked on a study to examine how Africa’s youth in six nations are engaging with financial services.

In The State of Financial Services in Sub-Saharan Africa, GeoPoll presents the findings from an extensive mobile web survey in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, and Côte d’Ivoire with around 400 youth aged 18-35 from each country. Thus, the data focuses on populations who have access to a mobile phone and basic internet services, which often represents the target population for retail banks and mobile money services.

While topics studied included income streams, spending habits, payment types, investment decisions, savings patterns, and more, there is one graphic that especially surprising.

Top 4 Mobile Money Purchases by African Youth

mobile money purchases african youth

GeoPoll found a surprising consistency across all six countries, where mobile money has a 28% average use rate. Youth in each country spent most of their mobile money on very similar products. Mobile money was the most popular payment method for:

  • Gambling – 63% of respondents used mobile money for online gambling
  • Home Internet – 54% of respondents paid for internet access using mobile money
  • Mobile phone airtime – 53% of respondents logically used mobile money for airtime
  • Paid television services – 53% of respondents bought preium TV using mobile money

Mobile money was used least as a payment method for non-digital purchases, such as transportation (10%), non- alcoholic beverages (12%), clothing (13%) and groceries (13%).

The Troubling Rise of Online Gambling

The GeoPoll results tie in with other reports that gambling overall – on and offline – is a real problem across the continent. Sports betting in particular, is fueled by enthusiasm for wagering on European football teams and punters rely almost entirely on mobile money to make bets and collect winnings.

Kenya’s youth are the biggest gamblers on the African continent, and over 12-million betting account holders lose an estimated $2 Billion annually. The top 12 sports betting and gambling websites in Kenya have total financial turnover above 250 billion, more than the national recurrent budget!

The rise of mobile-money powered betting is causing an equal rise in gambling-related social ills, including addiction, poverty, and mental anguish, including suicide.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has even said he would support a complete ban on gambling in the country, though many see the tax-centric threats and actions as a thinly-disguised tax shakedown versus a real concern for public welfare.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. 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 IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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11 Comments to “What Are the Top 4 Mobile Money Purchases by African Youth?”

  1. I find it really interesting that Nigerians have the lowest rate of spending on gambling. I could speculate (i.e. because they know better than most that there is probably fraud involved with gambling and mobile money), but I’d like to know the real reasons.

  2. Phil Chinkhokwe says:

    Use of mobile money for online gambling is also on the rise in Malawi and many youth are crying foul. I have not heard of suicide cases yet but addiction is getting high. You can find youth in gambling centres in as late as mid-night in some locations.

    • Cavin Mugarura says:

      Before mobile money, the betting was in place with card and board games. I would not trust a survey of 400 people any further than I can throw it. By the way most of the betting is done without a mobile phone, i can bet upto 95%. I would not trust these results carried out by interns, surveys are good for a census, counting people and cows, when it comes to answering serious questions, they fall flat, while gambling is a bad habit, it affects a very small section of the population, and mobile tech is not in any way to blame. The youth who engage in gambling are unemployed, how much money are they spending when they have no money.

  3. Monica Jerbi says:

    Thanks for bringing this issue to the forefront, Wayan. I am speechless. Wow!

  4. Cavin Mugarura says:

    Hehehehe, obviously this data is just as accurate as the polls that indicated Trump was heading for a loss. To get accurate data would require obtaining data from the telecoms, which is a tall order on its own. Obviously they are clueless to the benefits. The major use is not any of the items listed in this survey / poll. A poll is as good as the question. If you ask a farmer in my village how many cows he has, he’s likely to exaggerate , but if its the tax man asking the same question your guess is as good as mine.

    Without even looking at data from the telecoms, we can get this info from google trends. What people are searching for is a good indication of what they are doing.

  5. Taylor Cruz says:

    Gambling!? I’ve noticed an increase in online sports betting popping up around Lusaka over the past two years, but I failed to put two and two together. Here is another article I found on the issue from a Zambian site. The troubling relationship between the rise in online betting and mobile money’s growth

    • Cavin Mugarura says:

      I think we have to take a step back before we start throwing stones. Next another study will blame roads for the increase in sports betting, what else can we blame , electricity, running water.

      The funny thing, mobile betting is not as easy as most would think, have u ever tried it for example. There s always a section of the population that believes in get rich quick schemes , from fake crypto , to other network marketing scams. Lets take a breather before we play the technology blame game. More than 20 years ago when we were in high school , there were always these characters looking to make a buck in funny schemes be it fake gold, magnesium or some kind of rare mineral which is not on the periodic table.

  6. Jenna G. says:

    Thanks for sharing, Wayan Vota! I’m interested to know if you explored the data on a deeper level. Are there significant differences based on gender, education, location, etc.?