Up to 90 per cent of international money transfers to Rwanda come through mobile wallets, a new survey indicates, highlighting the growing importance of mobile money transactions.
The report, which was released yesterday by WorldRemit, a leading international digital money transfer company, says that Rwanda - along with Tanzania - is experiencing the fastest growth in mobile money remittances in East Africa, increasing on average 9 per cent month-on-month.
WorldRemit is an online money transfer service that provides international remittance services to expatriates and migrant workers.
"Transfers to mobile money accounts make up 90 per cent of WorldRemit's transactions to Rwanda, and is growing rapidly," a statement from Worldremit reads in part.
"This rapid surge", it says, "is in line with Rwanda's push towards a cashless economy, with the National Bank of Rwanda estimating that mobile money account users increased by 18 per cent in 2017."
The report was published ahead of a continental meeting on mobile usage and penetration, which will kicks off in Kigali today.
The meeting, dubbed Mobile 360 Africa, is being organised by GSMA, a body representing mobile operators across the world.
WorldRemit is the leading global provider of remittances to mobile money - processing 74 per cent of all international transfers via mobile money accounts.
In Rwanda, WorldRemit partners with Tigo/Airtel and MTN mobile telephone operators.
MTN Rwanda's Chief Executive Officer, Bart Hofker, told The New Times that even as he is not aware of how much money is transferred internationally through other channels, he was "not surprised" by these statistics for Rwanda.
"Mobile money transaction is safe, fast, transparent, easy and relatively affordable. Another element that is important is that people do not need a bank account. The majority of Rwandans do not have bank accounts," he noted.
The international money transfer through MTN Mobile Money is a fast growing business, he said, "the controls are there. MTN Rwanda is audited and under oversight of BNR (Central Bank). With BNR we share the objective of creating a safe and affordable cashless society."
According to WorldRemit, remittances through mobile money accounts are "faster, lower-cost and more accessible" than transfers to bricks and mortar agents.
In line with this, WorldRemit's data shows that Rwandans send money more frequently via mobile money platform - 2.6 times a month to mobile money accounts, compared to just 1.4 transactions to offline locations.
Mobile money remittances are recognised as a key driver of financial inclusion.
"As part of WorldRemit's commitment to help under-served communities, the company has launched a pioneering project, in partnership with UNHCR, to promote digital remittances to refugees living in Gihembe camp in Gicumbi District." the statement from WorldRemit further noted.
Despite the presence of mobile telecom pay-out, agents in the camp, there is currently very little awareness or usage of mobile money remittance providers, like WorldRemit.
"We started money transfers to Rwanda in 2012 and the rapid adoption of our service shows that customers appreciate our fast, secure and reliable service.
"We are committed to playing our part in Rwanda's drive for financial inclusion, so that even the hardest-to-reach communities can experience the benefits of digitization," Andrew Stewart, WorldRemit's Regional Head of Middle East and Africa, said in a statement.