Sub-Saharan Africa offers tantalizing potential for mobile financial services, but as yet there have been few success stories. One hurdle has been the lack of clear numbers on the size of the opportunity.
Mobile financial services — often called mobile money — are a high priority for many mobile operators, financial institutions, technology firms, and governments. In regions where financial inclusion is limited, such as sub-Saharan Africa, mobile money promises a lower-cost, more scalable alternative to traditional banking. Yet despite high interest levels in the markets of sub-Saharan Africa, there have been few success stories to date. This is partly the result of uncertainty about whether Kenya—where M-Pesa has become one of the few mobile-money success stories—is unique or the potential for mobile payments in other markets is similarly robust. To cast light on the opportunity, this article attempts to quantify some of the many high-potential payment flows in this rapidly evolving region and to estimate the associated revenue pools.