Africa: How Technology Could Let Africa Bloom

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Data is key to Africa's development.

On any corner in Nairobi on any given day, the future of African commerce can be seen in action.From the most basic of feature phones, right up to sophisticated smartphones, M-Pesa, a mobile money service, has revolutionised how people pay each other money and do their daily financial transactions.

Since M-Pesa was pioneered by Safaricom -Kenya's largest mobile operator with some 70% market share - it has expanded to 29.5 million active customers in 10 markets.

They did a whopping 6 billion mobile money transactions in 2016, according to parent Vodafone, which recently sold Safaricom to its South Africa-based subsidiary Vodacom.

In 2015, M-Pesa processed $28 billion in transactions, about 44% of the country's nearly $65 billion GDP.

Some 25 million Kenyans use the service.

"Mobile money is now achieving mass market adoption in all corners of sub-Saharan Africa, enabling millions of people to access financial services for the first time and contributing to economic growth and social development," says Mats Granryd, director general of the GSM Association (GSMA), headquartered in London.

M-Pesa is the leading mobile money service in the world, and Africa had over 140 mobile money services in 39 countries at the end of 2016, according to a July 2017 GSM Association report on mobile money in sub-Saharan Africa.

That means that Africa has over half of the world's 277 mobile money systems.

In seven markets in the region, more than 40% of adults are active mobile money users, according to the GSMA. These are Gabon, Ghana, The rise of digital money October - December 2017 33 Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Africa is seeing "encouraging innovation" beyond the introduction of 3G and 4G cellphone technologies, which enabled faster and larger data transfers, says Granryd. "One is, of course, mobile money. Even though it's 10 years old, there are applications on top such as solar power, using the pay-as-you-go model," he told Africa in Fact.

You can find the rest of this story by downloading the latest issue of our journal Africa in Fact here.

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