The Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Guinea and Malawi are the top five countries in the sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region that recorded the most growth in bank accounts within a period of four years, a BusinessDay analysis shows.
According to data from the latest Global Findex report by World Bank, the percentage of adult banked population or account ownership for Congo Republic rose by 80.5 percentage points to 47.1 percent in 2021 from 26.1 percent in 2017, Sierra Leone’s own increased by 45.9 percent points to 28.9 percent from 19.8 percent.
The percentage of bank accounts for Senegal grew by 32.4 percentage points to 56 percent, Guinea rose by 29.4 percentage points to 30.4 percent and Malawi increased by 26.7 percentage points to 42.7 percent.
Nigeria’s account ownership or banked population increased by 14.1 percentage points to 45.3 percent.
“Mobile money is driving growth in account ownership, particularly in SSA, where 33 percent of adults have a mobile money account,” the report said
It said in SSA, 39 percent of mobile money account holders now use them to save.
“And more than one-third of adults in developing economies who paid a utility bill from an account did so for the first time after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic evidence of its impact on digital adoption.
“It is critical to build on these encouraging trends, especially given the current headwinds. High inflation, slow economic growth and food scarcity will affect the poor the most.
“Expanding their access to finance, reducing the cost of digital transactions, and channeling wage payments and social transfers through accounts will be critically important to mitigate the reversals in development from the ongoing turbulence,” the World Bank added.
The findex report has become a mainstay of global efforts to promote financial inclusion. Launched with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the report has been published every three years since 2011.
The 2021 edition is based on nationally representative surveys of about 125,000 adults in 123 economies during the pandemic.
It contains updated indicators on access to and use of formal and informal financial services, including on the use of cards, mobile phones, and the internet to make and receive digital payments including the adoption of digital merchant and utility payments during the pandemic and also offers insights into the behaviors that enable financial resilience.
A recent report by the GSM Association noted that global mobile money accounts grew by 13 percent in 2022 thanks to regulatory changes in SSA, particularly in Nigeria and Ethiopia. It said registered mobile money accounts rose to 1.6 billion from 1.4 billion in 2021.
“Some of the key contributors to the growth of mobile money in the past few years have been regulatory changes in large markets,” Mats Granryd, director general at GSMA, said.
The World Bank report also revealed that despite these areas of progress, there continue to be gaps in financial access for typically underserved adults.
“Lack of money, distance to the nearest financial institution, and insufficient documentation are consistently cited by unbanked adults as some of the primary reasons they do not have an account,” it said.
“Lack of a mobile phone is a common reason cited in SSA by 35 percent of unbanked adults for not having a mobile money account.”
The report recommended that global efforts for inclusive access to digital identification and mobile phones could be used to increase the account ownership of hard-to-reach populations.