How are different markets responding to mobile purchasing?

Mobile money was a hot topic at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. According to the GSMA, an estimated 2.5 billion people in lower- to middle-income countries are underbanked, lacking access to financial services that would protect their assets and help them avoid sinking further into poverty. Yet with more than 1 billion of these people owning a mobile phone, mobile money services (such as payments, transfers and savings) offer an appealing solution. Already there are nearly 220 services in 85 countries, with more popping up around the world. As the GSMA’s recently released report on the mobile financial services industry points out, competition is increasing in many markets, as mobile money becomes a mainstream product for many operators.

The largest number of mobile money users are in Sub-Saharan Africa (52 percent of all services globally). A significant number of people use their accounts actively (around 43 percent). By contrast, other regions may see a high number of mobile money accounts but very few active users. In the Middle East and North Africa, for instance, only roughly 5 percent of mobile money accounts are active.

As we report in our 10 Trends for 2014, mobile is increasingly serving as a Gateway to Opportunity, providing life-changing services to people at the bottom of the pyramid. Expect more services to take off in developing regions as mobile operators and users find ways to use their devices to improve their livelihood and their lives.