Digital Economy takes shape in Africa

African economies are readying up for intense digitisation, with data networks being expanded, data access prices falling and smartphone prices declining, experts at mobile money advisory and research company, Mondato, have said.

According to IT Web Africa, mobile and other commerce companies are being urged to capitalise on this and establish partnerships to tap into the popularity of the mobile industry.

Mobile companies in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya and Nigeria have been at the forefront of developing mobile money solutions that have enhanced commerce and eased transaction settlement processes.

“Data networks are supplanting 2G legacy networks originally intended primarily for voice and SMS services. Data prices are dropping quickly, and smartphones are only a fraction of their cost of just a few years ago,” the research company stated.

Experts at Mondato say there is massive upside potential for the continent regarding usage of mobile phones as “Africa is still very much a mobile-first region,” which positions it to be a world leader in mobile finance and commerce (MFC).

“The pillars are being put in place for the digitisation of economies. Several markets have already led the way in establishing use cases for mobile money, a service originally emerging in Southeast Asia, but which was introduced to the rest of world by East Africa,” they said.

In Kenya, Safaricom has just introduced an e-statement service as the platform is now being used by retailers for credit assessment purposes. Safaricom now has as many as 22 million registered users while user numbers for the EcoCash platform run by Econet Wireless in Zimbabwe have surpassed 5 million.

“Every month, an average of 30,000 customers’ visit our retail centres specifically seeking to receive printed M-PESA statements, as a prerequisite to accessing credit from financial institutions or for business reconciliation purposes,” Betty Mwangi, director for financial services at Safaricom, was quoted saying last week.

Governments and regulators in Africa are also being urged to speed up regulatory approvals for mobile money and digital commerce advancements and developments.

“From a policy perspective, government should formulate a vision for MFS and the digital ecosystem,” said another expert recently.

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