There is currently a big divide between the digital haves and digital have nots on the continent of Africa and mobile technology can help level the playing field.
Mobile technology allows banking for the majority of people who don’t even have bank accounts and can also help to boost the efficacy of farming, through apps and communities that can grow around them.
Because mobile technology does not rely on having cables laid beneath billiard table smooth asphalt, it can provide otherwise isolated communities with improved economic opportunities.
Cash is still king in Africa, with over 90% of retail payments being completed in cash. Paying friends, relatives and for ecommerce has been a changing story for several years now. There are about 650 million mobile phone users in Africa, from a population of 1.2bn.
Combine the number of phones with a lack of bank accounts, which is usual for populations across Africa. There has been some research by Nova University of Lisbon (NovaSBE) into the introduction of mobile banking facilities in Mozambique.
They say that through their research, it became evident that mobile banking opens up new opportunities because people can receive money via mobile payments and don’t need a bank account.
“In sub-Saharan Africa, only 34% of adults regularly interact with a financial institution and in rural areas of Mozambique, access to financial services is even more limited, estimated at 13% according to Finscope data for 2014.” – https://furtherafrica.com/2019/05/10/mobile-banking-in-rural-mozambique-reduces-vulnerability-to-hunger-study/
M-Pesa is a mobile phone-based money transfer service, payments and micro-financing service, launched in 2007 and can be used by almost any phone handset to transfer money. Sending money is as simple as sending an SMS and has made a real difference to the lives of people in Kenya, for example. Read more from Vox here.
Over the past decade, use of mobile phones has increased steadily, an increase which can be attributed to cheap but durable handsets being readily available. This has given a boost to farmers who often work without technology at all. Cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire, for example, still pick and process cocoa pods by hand.
With smartphones, farmers of all types now have access to knowledge and advice at the touch of a button. Smart apps have offline content, getting around connectivity issues and build a real community where farmers can interact with each other.
Appearing again with another advantage is M-Pesa. Farmers can now take their produce to market and sell it without needing to carry large amounts of cash around with them.
The only thing that can be an impediment to the growing number of mobile phone users is the availability of electricity. This is especially the case with smartphones which all have an incredibly short battery life when compared with the classic Nokia models of the late 90s and early 00s for example.
But there is a lot of innovation to be done, even around older mobile phones. Christine Ampaire from Uganda has come up with an SMS-based app for taxi motorcycle riders in the capital city, Kampala, because their older phones do not have access to the Internet.
The youth of Africa are really driving change and rewriting society’s rules as they go along.
Mobile phones have great advantages for people across the continent of Africa, allowing them to make cashless payments and get essential information to improve their businesses. The only impediment we can see for now, is the availability of electricity. We hope the continent invests in green energy for the future, placing itself at the head of the green revolution.