Embracing mobile money: Bold vision for Africa's financial future

In a groundbreaking proposal, Ghana's Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has championed the adoption of mobile money as a common currency for Africa.

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This innovative idea has the potential to revolutionise the continent's financial landscape by promoting financial inclusion, facilitating trade and driving economic growth. (See story on page 20).

For too long, Africa has been hindered by fragmented and inefficient payment systems, hindering cross-border transactions and stifling economic development.

Dr Bawumia's vision offers a solution to this long-standing challenge. By harnessing the power of mobile money, Africa can leapfrog the traditional banking infrastructure and embrace a more secure, instantaneous and traceable means of exchange.

The benefits of a common mobile money platform are numerous. It will connect millions of Africans, enhance financial inclusion and simplify transactions. With mobile money, businesses can expand their reach, and trade can flourish across borders. This bold initiative has the potential to integrate Africa's economies by fostering economic stability and prosperity.

The Daily Graphic acknowledges that implementing a common mobile money platform across Africa will require significant efforts to harmonise regulations, address technological challenges and ensure financial stability. However, we believe the benefits far outweigh the challenges.

And as the Vice-President puts it, “Trade payments and relationships are currently hampered by inadequate settlement systems, which result in high costs, limited access, slow processing speeds and a lack of transparency.”

As he emphasised, the importance of developing efficient domestic  payment systems, such as real-time gross settlement systems and national switches, while also focusing on cross-border interoperability could not be overemphasised.

Ghana's experience with mobile money interoperability, launched in 2018, as a pioneering model could be the right test case as Ghana was the first on the continent to introduce mobile money interoperability, not just among telcos but also between telcos and banks.

This innovation has significantly boosted financial inclusion in the country. The Daily Graphic believes that mobile money could serve as a viable alternative to the long-discussed but elusive common currency for Africa, just like Dr Bawumia said: “Making mobile money interoperable across borders would allow our citizens to trade seamlessly.”

First of all, a common mobile money platform will facilitate cross-border transactions, boosting trade and economic growth. Currently, intra-African trade is hindered by cumbersome payment systems which lead to high transaction costs and long processing times. Mobile money can simplify this process, enabling businesses to expand their reach and tap into new markets.

According to the African Development Bank, intra-African trade has the potential to increase from $170 billion to $250 billion by 2025, creating a massive opportunity for economic growth and development.

Mobile money has already proven to be a powerful tool for financial inclusion. In Ghana, for example, mobile money has enabled millions of people to access financial services for the first time. A common platform will extend this benefit to millions more across Africa, reducing poverty and inequality.

The World Bank estimates that mobile money has already enabled 20 million adults in Africa to access financial services for the first time. It is also a secure and traceable means of exchange, reducing the risks associated with cash transactions. This will help to combat money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes that plague our continent.

According to the United Nations, mobile money can help to reduce the cost of remittances, which are a lifeline for many African families. We believe that a common mobile money platform will promote economic integration, fostering a sense of unity and cooperation among African countries.

This aligns with the goals of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the African Union's Agenda 2063. By adopting a common mobile money platform, Africa can demonstrate its commitment to economic integration and cooperation.

To achieve this vision, we recommend that African governments and regulatory bodies work together to establish a harmonised regulatory framework for mobile money. This framework should ensure consistency in licensing requirements, consumer protection and security standards.

Mobile network operators and financial institutions must also collaborate to develop a common platform that is interoperable, secure, and user-friendly. They must invest in technology and infrastructure to support the growth of mobile money transactions.

Furthermore, we urge African leaders to demonstrate political will and commitment to drive this initiative forward. They must provide the necessary resources and support to ensure the successful implementation of a common mobile money platform.

These include investing in financial literacy programmes, promoting digital literacy, and ensuring that the benefits of mobile money are extended to all Africans, regardless of their location or socio-economic status.

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The adoption of mobile money as a common currency for Africa is a bold vision that has the potential to transform our continent's financial landscape. We urge all stakeholders to embrace this vision and work together to make it a reality. With collective effort and commitment, we can create a more integrated, prosperous and financially inclusive Africa for generations to come.

The Daily Graphic is of the view that with the power of mobile money, Africa can leapfrog traditional banking infrastructure and embrace a more secure, instantaneous and traceable means of exchange. Let us seize this opportunity to create a brighter financial future for Africa.

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