The number of registered banking agents grew by 41 percent in 2022 following the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) issuing new licences to mobile money operators.
The latest GSMA State of Industry Report on Mobile Mobile says the growth in registered banking agents means new jobs for millions and increased access to mobile money services for more people.
The CBN has in recent years relaxed its stance on the criteria for operating in financial services by granting Payment Service Bank licences to telecom operators. Telcos such as MTN and Airtel are pushing aggressively into financial services through their mobile money subsidiaries and getting significant results. The first quarter 2023 report, for example, shows that over 40,000 agents joined MoMo agent network bringing the total number to approximately 264,000 active agents.
“Our agent network is pivotal in our MoMo ecosystem, bringing the service closer to our customers,” said Karl Toriola, CEO of MTN Nigeria.
The telcos foray into mobile money according to the report was responsible for the growth in mobile money account ownership from 16 percent to 22 percent in the last year. Of all the adults with a mobile money account, 88 percent have one registered in their own name (a nine percentage point increase year-on-year).
Banking agents, which the report describes as an important part of any mobile network, were responsible for two-thirds of all cash-in transactions in 2022. Nevertheless, the number of active banking agents at 7.2 million is less than half (41 percent) of the 17.4 million registered agents globally.
This is also the case with the total number of active 90-day mobile money accounts at 586 and active 30-day accounts at 401 million not matching half of registered mobile money accounts at 1.6 billion.
In West Africa, the total number of registered accounts is 290 million but only 70 million of these accounts are active, representing about 24.1 percent. In East Africa, which tops other markets in Africa and globally, the total number of active 30-day accounts is 115 million out of 390 million registered accounts.
Active 30-day accounts in sub-Saharan Africa saw a slight drop from 28.9 percent in 2021 to 28.5 percent in 2022. The GSMA suggests that the decline in active mobile money is because many more people now rely on mobile money and banking agents to provide the service.
In 2022, these agents were responsible for digitising $294 million total cash-in transactions, representing 17 percent from 2021.
“Nearly two-thirds of all incoming transactions are cash-ins performed by agents, making agents the main gateway to digital financial inclusion in markets where cash dominates. Mobile money agents are the face of the industry globally and are responsible for onboarding and educating hundreds of millions of customers. For many, agents remain a trusted entry point to the mobile money ecosystem, offering a convenient channel to digitise cash and providing the first line of customer support,” the report noted.
West Africa, led by Nigeria, dominates the mobile money market with 2,128,000 agents.