Inclusion across Africa: Findings from five FDIP countries

This post was originally published on the Brookings Institution’s TechTank blog and highlights results from the 2015 Financial and Digital Inclusion Project (FDIP) Report and Scorecard.

Today’s post highlights the 2015 Scorecard findings for five of FDIP’s nine African countries: Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Malawi. To learn more about the remaining FDIP African countries, read Amy Copley and Amadou Sy’s recent post on Brookings’s “Africa in Focus” blog.

Rwanda: Significant financial inclusion progress over time, but room for expansion remains

  • While Rwanda and Uganda were among the bottom four FDIP countries in terms of GDP in current US dollars as of 2013, both countries tied for 4th place on the overall FDIP scorecard, buoyed by their national commitment to and progress toward financial inclusion. For example, Rwanda has a comprehensive action plan for financial inclusion featured in the country’s Financial Sector Development Program (now in its second phase) and, as noted in the 2014 Maya Declaration, set up a working group to monitor the implementation of the program. As part of its commitment to promoting financial inclusion, Rwanda set a numeric target to increase access to formal financial services from 21 percent of the country’s adult population (as benchmarked in the 2008 FinScope survey) to 80 percent by 2017; it has since increased its goal to 90 percent by 2020. The National Bank of Rwanda serves as the country’s Maya Declaration signatory.
  • On the mobile side, Rwanda received a higher score than Uganda for the percentage of unique mobile subscribers, achieving a score of “2” (out of 3 possible points), rather than Uganda’s “1.” Rwanda also scored higher than Uganda in terms of 3G mobile network coverage by population, receiving a “3” rather than Uganda’s “2.” Both countries received the highest scores possible for the mobile money deployment and offerings indicators in the scorecard (e.g., existence of bill payment and international remittance options through mobile money). Rwanda was one of the first countries in Africa to support mobile money cross-border remittances, enabling Tigo subscribers to transfer funds to counterparts in Tanzania.
  • Rwanda performed strongly on the regulatory environment dimension of the 2015 FDIP Scorecard, ranking third. A 2012 International Finance Corporation (IFC) Mobile Money Scoping report praised Rwanda for its “highly proactive government” that instituted a comprehensive framework for e-payments, driven by its aim to facilitate a cashless financial ecosystem by 2017. Rwanda’s regulatory environment facilitates both mobile operator-led mobile money services and bank-led mobile banking models. As noted in the 2015 FDIP Report, a national ID is widely available, and specific provisions catering for tiered KYC requirements are underway as part of the draft e-payments legislation for non-bank entities.
  • On the adoption front, Uganda received higher scores than Rwanda, ranking 6th in contrast to Rwanda (10th). Among the FDIP countries, Rwanda tied for the highest score in terms of the savings at a formal financial institution but did not receive top scores for any of the other 14 adoption indicators. The relatively low levels of formal financial services adoption should not discount the progress that has been made — as of 2014, the World Bank’s Global Financial Inclusion (Global Findex) database found that takeup of formal accounts had increased to about 42 percent of adults  — but in an absolute sense, Rwanda still has room for growth.
  • With respect to further opportunities for improvement, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)’s “Global Microscope 2014: The enabling environment for financial inclusion” report noted that some existing consumer protection issues in Rwanda are expected to be addressed in part by a financial consumer protection law expected to be fully implemented by 2016. Advancing platform interoperability could further incentivize adoption of digital financial services: According to the National Bank of Rwanda, interoperability across mobile money transfer services is in process, but not yet complete.

Uganda: Fairly robust mobile money adoption, but improvements regarding consumer protection and usage are key

  • As noted above, Uganda tied with Rwanda for 4th place overall on the 2015 FDIP scorecard. A 2014 financial inclusion report by the Bank of Uganda (Uganda’s Maya Declaration signatory) noted on page iv that in 2011, the Bank of Uganda “adopted a new strategy for financial inclusion based on four pillars: financial literacy, financial consumer protection, financial innovations, and financial services data and measurement.” Like Rwanda, FinScope surveys have been carried out fairly regularly in Uganda, most recently in 2013. These financial services surveys help to identify areas of strength and room for improvement in terms of access to and usage of formal financial services among different demographics.
  • On the mobile side, Uganda’s mobile capacity — specifically, its percentage of unique mobile subscribers and 3G mobile network coverage by population — could be improved. Regarding the latter indicator, Uganda’s score was among the bottom five FDIP countries (along with Tanzania, Malawi, and Zambia, also featured in this post). Still, Uganda’s mobile money adoption rates are quite robust: Uganda received a score of “2” for all mobile money account-related indicators under the adoption dimension, with the exception of the percentage of adults who pay bills regularly through a mobile phone, which achieved the top score of “3.”
  • On the regulatory side, mobile money guidelines were developed in 2013 to provide some clarity to the industry. However, since these guidelines are not binding in the way that more formal regulations are, developing formal regulations could help ensure greater customer protection and clarity within the market. Uganda does not have a payments law to enable the Bank of Uganda to issues licenses to electronic money institutions, and only banks and other institutions regulated under the Financial Institutions Act can provide retail payment services. As noted in the 2015 FDIP Report, amendments to the Financial Institutions Act and the Micro-Finance and Deposit-Taking Institutions Act, along with new draft agency banking guidelines, are underway to facilitate agent banking.
  • In terms of availability and adoption of financial services, a Helix Institute report published in 2014 noted that the products and services offered by agents in Uganda were somewhat limited. Expanding the services offered — such as credit, savings, and insurance — could provide individuals with more opportunities to increase their wealth. These services must be offered with careful regard to consumer protection. Uganda achieved 6th place on the adoption dimension of the scorecard, boosted by its above-average takeup of mobile money compared to other FDIP countries.
  • In terms of next steps, moving away from a reliance on basic deposit and withdrawals conducted “over-the-counter” to encourage a greater diversity of offerings and services could strengthen the utility of mobile money for customers. However, providers will also have to build trust in digital financial services, particularly in light of ongoing issues with service down-time and recent fraud scandals such as the recent case against several former employees of MTN charged with defrauding the compnay of over $3 million.

Tanzania: Significant strides in regulatory environment and mobile money adoption, with further growth likely to follow

  • Tanzania ranked 12th overall on the FDIP scorecard. As noted in the 2015 Report, Tanzania has demonstrated strong leadership in terms of its national-level commitment to promoting financial inclusion, which has contributed to its enabling regulatory environment for digital financial services. For example, Tanzania launched a National Financial Inclusion Framework in 2013, which contains a quantified target of 50 percent financial inclusion by 2016. These factors will likely drive greater financial inclusion in the future by facilitating the development and adoption of innovative, appropriate, and accessible products for previously underserved communities. However, quantitative data available as of 2015 regarding Tanzania’s overall mobile capacity and adoption of formal financial services indicate that room for growth remains.
  • In terms of mobile capacity, Tanzania’s mobile money providers have been noted for offering an array of innovative products, including mobile operator Tigo’s interest-bearing mobile money service. Tanzania’s recent (and quite rare) implementation of interoperable mobile money platforms was also highlighted in the 2015 Report and Scorecard. However, as measured by 2015 GSMA Intelligence data, Tanzania’s score for the percentage of 3G network coverage by population was among the lowest of the FDIP countries, and its rate of unique subscribership was below the FDIP average.
  • Tanzania’s regulatory environment has been lauded for enabling a diverse array of entities to offer competitive formal financial services. As noted in the 2015 FDIP Report, the Bank of Tanzania Act was amended in 2006 to permit non-bank entities to offer payment services, and the 2007 Electronic Payment Schemes Guidelines were used to enable mobile network operators to offer payment services. In 2013, agent banking guidelines were issued, and in March 2015, the National Payment Systems Act was passed by Tanzania’s parliament. These various regulations have provided the space and clarity for a variety of providers to enter the digital financial services market.
  • On the adoption front, Tanzania has undoubtedly made great strides in terms of advancing mobile money adoption, even outnumbering the total number of mobile money transactions made in Kenya (according to figures noted by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor in March 2015). However, in terms of the percentage of adults with a mobile money account, there was a difference of over 25 percentage points between Kenya and Tanzania as of 2014, according to the 2014 Global Findex.
    Out of 3 possible points achievable per indicator on the adoption dimension, Tanzania received 2 points for the adoption of mobile money accounts among adults, rural individuals, women, and adults making utility bill payments. However, Tanzania received a score of “1” for the other 11 adoption indicators. As a point of reference, Kenya received a full 3 points for each of the mobile account-related indicators on the adoption dimension, and it tied or exceeded Tanzania’s scores for the other adoption indicators.
  • Moving forward, we fully anticipate that Tanzania’s increasingly competitive and robust mobile money environment, combined with strong coordination and financial inclusion leadership among the public and private sectors, will drive greater adoption of formal financial services.

Zambia: Commitment to increasing equity in access to financial services, but usage of available services is limited

  • Zambia was ranked 14th overall on the 2015 FDIP Scorecard. As with three of the other countries featured in this post — Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda — Zambia achieved a score of 100 percent for country commitment. The Bank of Zambia serves at the country’s Maya Declaration signatory and houses the secretariat for Zambia’s Financial Sector Development Plan. As one of the Bank of Zambia’s Maya Declaration commitments, the country set a goal of ensuring access to financial services for at least half of its adult population by the end of 2016. As of 2014, the “gender gap” in terms of account ownership between men and women was about 5 percentage points in Zambia, according to the Global Findex, making Zambia among the five FDIP countries with the smallest disparity in terms of access to finance by gender. Still, account ownership among women was only about 33 percent in 2014; Zambia’s first lady, Esther Lungu, has emphasized the importance of promoting financial inclusion among women.
  • In terms of mobile capacity, Zambia received a score of “2” for both the percentage of unique mobile subscribers and percentage of 3G mobile network coverage by population, as measured by the 2015 GSMA Intelligence database. Zambia received top scores for the other mobile capacity indicators, which focused on the number of mobile money deployments and the type of offerings. However, while about 62 percent of adults owned a mobile phone in Zambia as of 2014, according to a 2014 country brief, only about 5 percent of adults used their mobile phone to pay bills or send or receive money — about 11 percentage points below the average for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Regarding the country’s regulatory environment, Zambia finalized a draft framework on branchless banking in 2013 and has adopted a tiered approach to KYC requirements for e-money wallets. As noted in the 2015 FDIP Report, draft e-money directives are also undergoing review and are expected to include provisions regarding interoperability. Zambia began working toward a new financial inclusion strategy in advance of expiration of the Financial Sector Development Plan in June 2015, which may inform the direction of future regulatory initiatives.
  • Challenges to the formal financial services sector in Zambia include high interest rates, fees, and other costs associated with banking. Further, a 2011 report noted that low literacy rates and high poverty levels have posed challenges to takeup of formal financial services. Efforts to expand access to financial services beyond brick-and-mortar banks have been quite successful, as demonstrated by the greater density (in terms of points of service) of mobile money agents than traditional banks in Zambia as of 2013. As of 2014, mobile money agents accounted for about 45 percent of all financial access points in the country.
  • In the near future, Zambia is expected to finalize and issue draft e-money directives and approve draft branchless banking regulations. Increasing usage of more extensive financial services could help individuals reap the full benefits of mobile money — as noted in the FinScope 2015 findings, mobile money customers primarily use the service to send and receive money, purchase airtime, or pay bills.

Malawi: Limited infrastructure constrains adoption, but forthcoming regulations may enhance digital financial ecosystem

  • Malawi ranked 19th overall on the 2015 FDIP Scorecard. Among the 21 FDIP countries, Malawi has the lowest GDP in current US dollars, according to the 2013 World Development Indicators database. Despite economic and infrastructural barriers, Malawi has engaged in a variety of efforts to promote digital financial services such as mobile money, including through its participation in the Alliance for Financial Inclusion and the creation of its Mobile Money Coordination Group.
  • Regarding the mobile capacity dimension of the 2015 Scorecard, Malawi received the highest number of possible points for its deployment offerings. However, Malawi had the second-lowest rate of unique mobile subscribership among the 21 FDIP countries and the lowest score for the extent of 3G mobile network coverage by population, as measured by data provided in the 2015 GSMA Intelligence database. Expanding mobile networks and facilitating mobile subscribership could boost Malawi’s mobile money environment by increasing access to and incentivizing use of mobile services.
  • In terms of Malawi’s regulatory environment, the 2011 Mobile Payment System Guidelines were developed to permit mobile network operators to provide mobile money services. Interoperability has been identified as an objective in these Mobile Guidelines, and the recently launched National Switch may facilitate interoperability. Draft e-money regulations developed by the Reserve Bank of Malawi (the country’s Maya Declaration signatory) are expected to be officially recognized by the Ministry of Finance in 2015; these regulations are anticipated to replace the Mobile Guidelines. As noted in the 2015 FDIP Report, a Payment Systems Bill was finalized in February 2015 and expected to be enacted in December 2015. This bill is expected to help provide greater clarityregarding oversight arrangements for payment services.
  • Malawi received a score of “1” for each of the adoption indicators, which placed it among the three lowest-scoring countries for the adoption dimension of the 2015 Scorecard. Financial infrastructure in Malawi is very limited, which constrains adoption of formal financial services. For example, the 2014 International Monetary Fund Financial Access Survey found that there were only about 3 commercial bank branches per 1,000 km2 and per 100,000 adults in Malawi.
  • Moving forward, the new regulations described above may even the playing field between banks and non-banks, both in terms of e-money and agent banking, and will permit tiered KYC for e-money service providers. Increasing competition among providers could enhance the diversity of available financial services offerings, which may in turn drive adoption.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on the 2015 Financial and Digital Inclusion Project (FDIP) Report and Scorecard, which were launched at a Brookings public event, “Measuring Progress on Financial and Digital Inclusion,” on August 26th. Previous posts have highlighted five key findings from the 2015 FDIP Report, explored groundbreaking financial inclusion developments in India, and examined the financial inclusion landscape among FDIP countries in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.