Yet another in what is becoming a steady stream of articles on mobile banking in developing countries: Phoney finance in the Oct. 28 issue of The Economist (requires subscription). This article focuses on South Africa, where 500,000 people now use their mobiles as a bank. Again, the upside is huge: 16 million South Africans, over half the adult population, still have no bank account. And 30% of them have mobile phones.
What amazes me about this phenomenon is that people who until recently never owned phones or had bank accounts, are now transferring money by phone.
As in Bangladesh and elsewhere, the rise of a valuable new service is creating thousands of rural income opportunties. One non-bank provider of financial services, Wizzit, hired 2,000 unemployed young Wizzkids to bring in new customers.
Other mobile banking operations in South Africa in clude MTN Banking and Celpay, which started as a subsidiary of Celtel but is now owned by First National Bank. In the Philippines, where mobile banking started, Globe Telecom and Smart Communications have both developed highly evolved services.