Opportunities for Mobile Money Growth in Zambia
In November 2017, and with support from the World Bank, Zambia launched its National Financial Inclusion Strategy. Joining the over 30 countries that have created similar strategies, Felix , Finance Minister of Zambia said, "Enhancing the financial sector will allow all Zambians to reap the full benefit of financial inclusion." Indeed, though the African nation has taken this important step, Interactive Dashboard for Zambia uncovered several opportunities to increase financial inclusion through greater financial access.
Part of the aim of Zambia's financial inclusion strategy is to increase the number of financial access points, such as bank branches, agents and ATMs. Geospatial analysis of access points by type of institution show that informal forms of financial services are more prominent than formal financial service providers. The growth of informal financial service providers was partly the result of strategic shifts that led microfinance institutions to focus on salaried workers, leaving self-employed workers to find alternative means of finance. Together, Savings Groups and Shylock (money lenders) account for 48 percent of the total number of access points. In fact, Savings Groups alone account for more access points than Mobile Money Operators.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are many differences in the types of access points that are readily available in rural areas of Zambia and those that are available in the urban centers. For example, Savings Groups are found mostly in rural regions, with relatively few in Lusaka. Formal financial service providers - including commercial banks, forex bureaus, insurance providers and mobile money agents - are more likely to be found in the urban districts of Lusaka, Ndola, and .
Another tenet of Zambia's National Financial Inclusion Strategy is greater adoption of digital financial services, including mobile money. While offering significant coverage in the Lusaka and Copperbelt provinces, mobile money providers could benefit from expanding to the Luapula, Norther and Eastern provinces, which have relatively large populations and advantageous locations relative to urban centers in neighboring countries like Malawi.
Zambia is taking great efforts in order to reach its goal of increased financial inclusion. Those leading the charge – whether policy maker, funder or financial service provider – can use the Interactive Dashboard for Zambia to identify underserved regions that offer significant expansion opportunities. The access point data can also help monitor progress toward goals and inform policy interventions.