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Posted on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 13:38

Ghana: Mobile money promotes financial inclusion

By Lawrence Quartey

The research highlighted a set of steps to reduce barriers to the usage of mobile money in Ghana/Photo©ReutersResearch by a United States university has revealed that mobile money services can promote financial inclusion and savings in rural Ghana.

 

The study funded by the SWIFT Institute, an organization that fosters independent research by giving grants and access to research data, was undertaken by the Tufts University.

It showed that the use of mobile money can be easily promoted and this could also encourage a savings culture.

"If mobile money services can help to improve financial inclusion in this way, they could offer a crucial mechanism through which to address a stubborn problem that continues to hinder economic development," the report detailing the findings reads in part.

One month into the research project, 10 percent of participants had used the service to transfer money only.

Two and half months later, usage increased to 26 percent of households, with 86 percent of users receiving money and 70 percent saving on their mobile phone.

Statistics show that in the remote areas of sub-Saharan Africa, less than 20 percent of the population has access to any type of formal financial institution, defined as a bank, microfinance institution or cooperative.

But access to financial services is a key aspect of development where credit and savings allow households to invest, save and respond to shocks.

In Ghana, this figure rises to about 29 percent of the population, according to the World Bank.

"Access to financial services is crucial to economic development," Millison Narh, Second Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana, said.

The research findings suggest that mobile money offers a possible model for extending the benefits of financial services to a much wider section of the community.

Ghana's rural households save 'informally' at home or with local money collectors popularly called "susu".

Rural folks also depend on their relatives in the cities and abroad for remittances.

While such strategies are important risk-sharing mechanisms for such households, they are also vulnerable to risks including theft, restricted access to funds, high fees, or high transaction costs.

The findings show that mobile money can improve households' ability to share risk in money transfers and also create a secure "pseudo-savings" account, where individuals can deposit smaller savings amounts for more immediate needs.

It says mobile money "account" is password-protected, its savings channel can offer greater security than savings under the mattress and better access than offered by the annual "share out" of savings clubs.

The success of any mobile money-based financial strategy requires increased network coverage and mobile phone ownership, as well as a growing number of mobile money services in many developing countries.

The research also highlighted a set of steps to reduce barriers to the usage of mobile money in Ghana.

These include the provision of some mobile phones, access to a mobile money agentsand a  campaign to promote mobile money.

Jenny Aker, an assistant professor of Economics at Tufts University said: "Whilst these early findings are limited, the research suggests that simple interventions to alleviate the barriers to mobile money adoption can help to encourage its use for receiving remittances and as a saving mechanism.

"If further research supports these conclusions, mobile money could be an important mechanism for promoting financial inclusion," he added.



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