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Cash is King in Sub-Saharan African Remittance Market

But mobile money is on the rise in this largely untapped, underbanked market, according to a report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The market for financial services in Sub-Saharan Africa is significant and remains largely untapped, according to a Gallup survey commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gallup polled 1,000 adults in South Africa, Zambia, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone, Botswana, Mali, and Rwanda on their payments practices from June to October 2011.

According to the report, approximately 134 million adults, or 53 percent of the adult population, in the 11 Sub-Saharan countries surveyed had paid or had been paid by a counter-party in a different part of the country in the prior 30 days, with 79 million reporting they still use only informal cash payments.

"The large numbers of respondents sending informal cash payments or not sending money at all because of the hassle2, high costs, and risks of informal mechanisms represents a major opportunity for providers of mobile money or similar services," reads a portion of the report.

Non-remittance flows, primarily payments of formal obligations, commercial transactions, and wage payments were less widespread than transactions of domestic remittances, according to the report. Nine percent of the total adult population in the 11 African nations surveyed reported sending money to a school, institution, or company to pay fees, utility bills, debt payments, or other obligations. Furthermore, 6 percent of adults sent money to a person or business from a different city or area as payment for goods or services they purchased. Twelve percent reported having received money from a government agency or an employer, such as wages for work performed.

Bryan Yurcan is associate editor for Bank Systems and Technology. He has worked in various editorial capacities for newspapers and magazines for the past 8 years. After beginning his career as a municipal and courts reporter for daily newspapers in upstate New York, Bryan has ... View Full Bio

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