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COVID-19 triggers acceleration towards cashless, digital economies

The spread of COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of mobile financial services, which are increasingly being recognised as a tool to mitigate the use of cash in a world fighting the highly contagious virus. This trend has been supported by the move by many operators, including MTN Group, to waive or reduce certain fees to ease customers’ financial pressures amid a global economic contraction.
“To date, as part of M TN’s Y’ello Hope response to COVID-19, we have zero-rated 120 million peer-to-peer Mobile Money transactions with a value of approximately R43 billion,” says Serigne Dioum, MTN Group executive for mobile financial services. “This has enabled many consumers and businesses across our 16 MoMo markets to transact and accept payments remotely, allowing them to continue operating despite lockdowns.”
Mobile financial services have grown faster in Africa than anywhere else in the world. Prior to their introduction, most Africans were unbanked. Without bank accounts, people could not easily access credit and had no way of paying bills or transferring money electronically. Mobile financial services have improved access and the use of accounts, underpinning many of the UN’s SDGs.
“As many countries adopted partial or total lockdowns, we witnessed an evolution in the type and volume of Mobile Money transactions,” says Dioum. “We saw a significant increase in MoMo Pay merchant and bill payments despite an initial decline in Mobile Money agent transactions due to the restrictions. However, we have already started to see a gradual increase as restrictions have been eased.”
“These changes, triggered by COVID-19, have enabled the acceleration and  scaling of cashless and digital economies. They support our ambition to transition to an end-to-end platform, creating a digital marketplace and connecting consumers to businesses, and businesses to businesses. We see this as a significant opportunity to change the outlook for affordable, inclusive, understandable and comprehensive financial services in Africa and the Middle East.”
MTN’s plan to further financial inclusion is focused on offering mobile financial services to more customers and small businesses in more markets, expanding the range of products available via the MTN ecosystem and
becoming a super platform. We have developed a low-cost payment acceptance solution for small retailers, enabling customers with feature phones to make payments with their MoMo wallets by dialling a USSD code with a feature phone, or by using the MoMo App for smartphone owners. MoMo Pay is now offered through multiple channels: face-to-face, e-commerce, m-commerce and on the app. It has a strong value proposition:
no fee is charged to the customer and merchants gain additional value over and above accepting payments because they too can make payments such as paying salaries, bills and suppliers, as well as accessing working capital.
MoMo Pay is live in 10 markets, with 250 000 merchants, 2,1 million active users. At the end of March 2020, MTN Group had 35,1 million active MoMo customers, an increase of 0,4 million from December 2019. In the first quarter, we accelerated our MoMo agency network in Nigeria under our super-agent licence, adding 70 000 agents, to bring the total number of registered agents to 178 000.
As one of the largest mobile financial services operators, MTN is uniquely placed to continue to drive greater levels of financial inclusion as Africa and the world adapt to a new way of transacting. Accelerated financial
inclusion is a potent enabler of socio-economic development that empowers the most vulnerable in society.
Source: MTN Zambia