Mobile technology continues to play a major role in enabling and enhancing access to financial services, which is deepening further use of electronic payments as the country inches closer to an inclusive cashless society.
According to the central bank, deployment and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has registered a marked increase in the past two or so years, strengthening government’s objective to drastically reduce paper-based payments in the medium to long-term.
The central bank’s Monetary Policy and Financial Stability Statement released last week indicates that registered mobile money accounts, for instance, increased by 22 per cent to Rwf8.3 million between June 2015 and June 2016. The volume transacted using mobile money transfer service also increased by 21 per cent to Rwf94.2 million over the reporting period, the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) statistics indicate. The report also shows that the rate of active mobile money holders increased by 14 per cent to over 2.9 million (36 per cent) for the year ended June 2016.
Close to 80 per cent or 8.8 million people have active mobile phones in Rwanda, according to the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority statistics for June. This has greatly increased access points (agents), with the penetration rate of agents per 100,000 adult population expanding by 27 per cent, from 453 to 577 agents between June 2015 and June 2016.
Commenting of the development, Teta Mpyisi, the MTN senior manager for brand and sponsorship, said mobile money transfer service solves “some of the frustrations associated with traditional ways to making payments”.
“The hustle of queuing, filling in forms and waiting to make payments is thing of past. Besides, people can now send cash across the region at affordable rates. All these are driving growth of mobile money services,” she said yesterday.
She added that the service ensure safety, ease of use and accessibility, which have endeared it to the telecom’s 3.6 million registered mobile money users.
According to Sunny Ntayombya, the Tigo corporate communications and government relations manager, the service improved access to financial services and helped improved the quality of life. Tigo currently has three million TigoCash users.
Dealers of different telecoms interviewed by Business Times say the service has eased access to financial services as people can transact business without necessary going the banking system.
Adrien Tuyishimire, an MTN Mobile Money dealer at Nyabugogo Bus Terminal, said mobile money transfer services have helped businesses reduce the cost of operations, adding that it has deepened financial inclusion, “which is an important aspect of development globally.
Confiance Nirere, who uses TigoCash, said it has enables her send money to her mother in Ngororero District, as well as use it to pay school fees for her children “without going to school”
Meanwhile, as more financial institutions adopt mobile financial services and Internet banking, growth in user uptake has been recorded. For instance, the number of mobile banking service users increased by 12 per cent, from 770,275 users last year to 862,945 in June. The number of ATMs rose by 10 per cent to 398 in June from 361 in June 2015, while that of points of sale (POS) devices was up by 27 per cent from 1,339 to 1,707 over the period.
John Rwangombwa, the BNR governor, attributed the increase in uptake to growing demand from merchants, like hotels and supermarkets. The number of transactions on ATMs increased slightly by 1 per cent from 3.7 million to 3.72 million in volume, and by 10 per cent from Rwf172 billion to Rwf188 billion in value, the BNR report indicates.
Payment at POS transactions increased significantly by 84 per cent from 146,038 to 269,241 in terms of volume, and 39 per cent from Rwf12 billion to Rwf16 billion in terms of value.
The central bank, however, indicates that despite the above progressive trend, the penetration of payment touch points is still low compared to other countries in the region or the middle-income countries, like South Africa.