Malawi has recorded a marked increase in the number of mobile money users and mobile money agents in the past three months. However, a lack of regulation and policy is impeding its progress towards national financial inclusion.
According to the Reserve Bank of Malawi’s Second Quarter National Payment System report, published in early August 2019, the overall number of registered mobile money users has grown by 8.2% to over 7 million during the quarter under review.
In the first quarter of the year the country was home to 6.5 million mobile money subscribers, the report stated.
It added that the total number of mobile money agents has also grown by 5.8% to 45, 929 compared to 39, 434 recorded in the first quarter.
However, research shows that mobile money agents remain highly concentrated in urban and semi-urban areas, with only 18.9% agents available in rural areas.
“This partly explains why the majority of the rural-based populace face difficulties to access digital financial services due to few service points. Therefore, any efforts by the service providers to increase their footprint in rural areas will go a long way in addressing this challenge,” said the report.
Executive director of the Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA) John Kapito was quoted by the local Nation newspaper as saying, “the increase in mobile money agents in urban areas was creating challenges to the growth of mobile money services in rural areas.”
Andrew Makanya, a telecom analyst at Computer Association of Zambia told ITWeb Africa that just like Zambia, Malawi will continue to struggle to achieve real financial inclusion unless laws and regulations are implemented to compel operators to deploy agents in remote regions.
“Currently, there are no policies or laws that compel operators to equally distribute their agents to both rural and urban areas. Therefore, this challenge will always be there unless something is quickly done,” Makanya said.