Mobile Money and COVID-19: What can we learn from East Africa?

By Berna Mugema, Head of Experimentation UNDP Accelerator Lab Uganda and Lillian Njoro, Head of Experimentation UNDP Accelerator Lab Kenya

Mobile information — Man in Marsabit. ©UNDP Kenya/Amunga Eshuchi

The Rise of Mobile Money in East Africa

If you’re trying to accelerate sustainable development, the exciting story is how mobile money brings financial services to people working in informal sectors, previously excluded by banking systems and the access and opportunities that they bring.

A closer look: Uganda’s Boda-Boda go digital

Coast Circuit — Traders. ©UNDP Kenya/Allan Gichigi
Bahati a fruit vendor in Old Town Mombasa, reading the newspaper. ©UNDP Kenya/Allan Gichigi

98% of the total working population of Ugandans work in the informal economy, mainly vulnerable groups of people like women, youth, persons with disabilities who sell perishable produce like fruits and vegetables with meagre daily incomes.

Mobile Money takes on new meaning during social distancing

Figure 1: Graph showing an increase in daily median mobile money transaction value after the waiver on costs for transactions
Figure 1: Graph showing an increase in daily median mobile money transaction value after the waiver on costs for transactions
Figure 1: Graph showing an increase in daily median mobile money transaction value after the waiver on costs for transactions up to KSh 1,000 was announced on March 16th.

Mobile money has also helped provide aid to vulnerable communities who have been hardest hit by the socio-economic effects of the pandemic crisis.

Mobile money as a bedrock for e-commerce platforms during the pandemic

Telecommunication Portrait of woman in Turkana. ©UNDP Kenya/Allan Gichigi

Post-COVID-19: The “new normal”

Physical distancing measures are likely to carry over into a post-COVID world, meaning that mobile money will continue to play a crucial role and result in increased prevalence.

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