Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land. Despite the potential, Africa’s farms produce, on average, much less per hectare than farms in many other countries. As a result, more than 200 million individuals, almost two thirds of the entire U.S. population, are chronically undernourished. And, as we have seen, the majority of those affected are living in rural areas where the small farm is their livelihood.
How do we change this paradigm? How can Africa grow its promising economies, attract financial service providers and allow them to see that solutions are possible? Financial systems case studies that illustrate and support people’s complex needs are mandatory.
Mobile money is one such system. As we saw in the 2014 State of the Industry Mobile Financial Services for the Unbanked report, “mobile money continues to transform the way people access financial services: in three-quarters of the markets where mobile money is available, agent outlets outnumber bank branches…and in 2014, the percentage of rural users and of female users increased.”
This means extremely isolated farmers can now have access to money from miles away - for seeds, equipment, more help to work the farm – and the ability to grow their business.
According to recent data, improvements in impact can be made when financial services are client and people focused. Being mobile is just one way to achieve that focus.
In the report we saw that in 2014 the mobile money industry marked several important milestones:
- The number of registered mobile money accounts globally grew to reach just under 300 million in 2014. There is still huge potential for future growth because these accounts only represent 8 percent of mobile connections in the markets where mobile money services are available.
- The industry is getting smarter about what it takes to prompt mobile money adoption: active mobile money accounts stand at 103 million as of December 2014 and an increasing number of services are reaching scale. Twenty-one services now have more than one million active accounts.
There is still lots of work and personalization of services to be done in order to continue to have impact, as well as to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. But there is a framework, and the data is emerging to indicate that, as we focus our services on the needs of our clients, we can and will have impact.