General Manager for MTN Mobile Money Limited, Eli Hini has said that COVID-19 has driven significant growth in mobile money wallets, volume and value of transaction, and even in the number of agents.
“Between June 2019 and June 2020 we have seen significant growth on the mobile money platform and a greater part of the that happened during the COVID-19 season,” he said.
Eli Hini was speaking in an interview on Graphic Talks 360 on the topic – Maximizing the Potential of Mobile Money as a Payment Option in Ghana – which was held live of Facebook.
Spelling out the figures, he noted that June 2019 closed with 12.9 million active mobile money wallets in the country, but by the close of June this year, it has increased by a little over 20% to 15.5 million.
Similarly, the volume/number of mobile money transactions, over the same period, grew significantly by almost 70% from 157 million to 226 million transactions, while the value of those transactions also grew by 62.5% from GHC3 billion to GHC4.8 billion.
Eli Hini said the growth also affected the number of mobile money agent points across the country, which also grew by 68.4% from 180,000 to 263,000, overwhelmingly bigger than the number of bank branches across the country.
“The COVID-19 incentives really drove this growths because we saw a spike in the traction in terms of adoption after we implemented those incentives,” he said.
COVID-19 has been in the Ghana since March this year, and the telecoms operators have since churned out a number of reliefs packages, which include some incentives on the mobile money platforms in collaboration with the Bank of Ghana.
The mobile money incentives include free transfer of the first GHC100 in a day, then a boost in the maximum wallet balance, as well as maximum daily and monthly transaction thresholds for three categories of customers – Minimum KYC (know your customer), Medium KYC and Enhanced KYC customers.
For Minimum KYC customers – maximum wallet balance went up from GHC1,000 to GHC2,000, while maximum daily transaction went up from GHC300 to GHC1,000 and monthly went up from GHC3,000 to GHC6,000.
Medium KYC customers got the maximum balance on the wallet increased from GHC10,000 to GHC15,000, while daily transaction increased from GHC2,000 to GHC5,000 and the monthly transact limit of GHC20,000 was completely removed and made unlimited.
The big one was the Enhanced KYC customers, who are now allowed to hold GHC30,000 in their wallet instead of the regular GHC20,000; and they can transact up to GHC10,000 daily instead of GHC5,000 originally; and their GHC50,000 monthly transaction threshold has been made unlimited.
Eli Hini said the introduction of the incentives gave the adoption rate a big push and now mobile money is really driving the fight against cash as the country pushes toward mainstreaming electronic financial transaction.
He said COVID-19 also presented an opportunity for customers to have easy access to safe and convenient financial transactions in the comfort of their homes as they avoid the risk of contracting the disease, and lots of customers are also leveraging on the ecosystem system to access loans and other services on the mobile money platform.
Interest on daily balance
One other factor he attributed the growth in mobile money adoption to was the four percent interest on daily wallet balance, which came with the introduction of the Electronic Money Issuers Guidelines from the Bank of Ghana.
Eli Hini noted that the interest was also a big incentive because it caused many customers to now make mobile money wallets alternative savings accounts, saying that “people quickly realized that instead of keeping cash in your pockets without making any interest on it, it was better to keep it in your mobile wallet and make interest every quarter.”
He explained that the interest is calculated at midnight every day, compiled for the month and then paid every quarter, adding that the amount of interest depends entirely on the customers activity – whether they are drawing from the balance or keeping the money in the wallet.
Touching on MTN’s position in the mobile money market, he said MTN commands about 10 million out of the 15.5 million active customers nationwide, and the revenue MTN Mobile Money Limited contributes to the overall MTN Ghana annual revenue is now up to 19%.
The activities of fraudsters, particularly on the MTN mobile money platform has been a big issue for customers, but Eli Hini said MTN has invested and continues to invest heavily in various solutions, including artificial intelligence to nib it in the bud.
He argued that the fraudsters often focus on the weakest link in the mobile money ecosystem, which is the customers and that is because customers fail to adhere to the many educative material churned out to help them identify and ward off fraudsters.
“Have you ever heard anyone say MTN mobile money system has been hacked before? That can not happen because the system is well built to ward them off – but our customers need to complement that by paying attention to the educative material we churn out in the mainstream media and on all our social media platforms so the platform will be unattractive to fraudsters,” he said.
The MTN MoMo Head said the police have also been very helpful in the fight against mobile money fraud because they are usually quick to undertake swoops based on intelligence MTN provides, and through that some 40 fraudsters have been arrested and their cases are at various levels of prosecution.
“We are also in the process of building a forensic lab for the police to fight the fraud – initially the location for the lab was Accra but now the police said they want it in Kumasi, so the processes are ongoing,” he said.
FinTech and Banks
Eli Hini believes even though cash is still the main means of financial transaction in Ghana, a strong collaboration, rather than competition, between mobile money, financial technology (FinTech) institutions and banks will drive the cash-lite society agenda in a more formidable way.
“We partner 19 banks and we also work with lots of FinTechs who provide solutions that enable customers to access pension programs, insurance, banking and payment services – it is important that the banks do not see the FinTechs as competition but partners because the solutions they create would need banks to work effectively and together we will all defeat cash, which is the common enemy,” he said.
He said MTN is for instance, transacting up to GHC40,000 loans daily on the mobile money platform, which is good because some of the beneficiaries are people who may not have the collateral for bank loans, and it would probably not even make economic sense to travel all the way to a bank for such small loans.
Currently, the mobile money platforms in Ghana, particularly MTN’s is able to receive direct transfers from abroad, but the platform is yet to allow customers in Ghana to transfer money abroad.
Eli Hini said MTN for instance, has put all the systems in place to enable customers do that, but the regulator is yet to give them the greenlight.
“We have all the systems in place to allow mobile money transfers abroad and we are waiting for the regulatory framework to allow that service – the conversion is ongoing and we believe that will be a possibility soon,” he said.
The Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia recently announced that mobile money has made it possible for over 15 million Ghanaians to have access to banking services without necessarily having traditional bank accounts.