How Ghana is using Mobile Money to go cashless
This month Ghana celebrates Mobile Money Month. Kicking off with a series of nation-wide events hosted by MTN, the celebrations aim to highlight the role Mobile Money has played in the daily lives of Ghanaians.
Mobile Money is a digital financial service that lets people store, send and receive money on a basic mobile phone, without requiring a bank account.Services like MTN Mobile Money, Airtel Money, Tigo Cash, and Vodafone Cash, offer Ghanaians a simple alternative to cash transactions
It’s been a remarkable journey. Nearly one in five Ghanaians are active users of Mobile Money, more than double the total a year ago. In June 2016, the Central Bank released figures showing that Mobile Money transactions in Ghana had grown 20 percent since the end of 2015, reaching 679.17 million Ghanaian Cedi ($177.9 million).
Ghana is a booming economy, but a large urban-rural divide makes it a prime location for domestic remittances.
When the first Mobile Money service launched in Ghana in 2009, the market probably wasn’t ready for fully mobile financial services.
Around 70 percent of the population was unbanked, according to the World Bank, but only an estimated 35 percent of the population owned a mobile phone.
However, the urban-rural divide was a clear market opportunity for low-cost domestic remittance services. Many Ghanaians moved to urban centres in search of work, hoping to send money back home to their relatives in the villages.
At first, Mobile Money operated in a similar way to a traditional money transfer business, but with a twist. Telephone companies operated a network of agents who would help customers process a money transfer via the agent’s own mobile money account.
As the services grew in popularity and mobile phones became more easily available, the telephone companies were able to register more people with their own Mobile Money accounts.
The services were allowed to flourish with the support of the Central Bank, who recognised the opportunity to help improve the rate of financial inclusion among the unbanked population.
According to the most recent Financial Inclusion Insights (FII) survey, access to formal financial services in Ghana increased by 41 percent between 2010 and 2015, largely thanks to the uptake of Mobile Money.
In part, the business model makes it easier to serve mass market needs. Banks, on the other hand, need to operate brick-and mortar branches, which makes it difficult to serve rural and low-income customers.
With mobile airtime agents spread throughout the country, mobile telecoms operators like MTN, Airtel and Tigo, were more easily able to fill this gap.
In 2015, MTN Mobile Money agent stalls alone outnumbered bank branches in the country by a factor of almost 20:1, according to the Bank of Ghana.
Mobile Money and banks compete for business on Oxford Street in central Accra
The biggest surge in Ghana’s Mobile Money success has been more recent.
In 2015, new e-money regulations set by the Bank of Ghana introduced favourable changes to the way Mobile Money providers were allowed to operate, including simpler registration processes for customers and simplified rules on the business model.
The telephone companies were able to invest in building their services in new regions and adding more offers to customers.
Today, Mobile Money is an increasingly popular payment tool for things such as utility bills and school fees, groceries and even online shopping.
Ghana was among the world’s first countries to launch contactless NFC payments via Mobile Money with Airtel’s “tap and pay” service last June.
Airtel later launched a micro-loan product called Airtel Money Bosea, which allows customers to borrow up to 200 Ghanaian Cedi instantly, with up to a month to pay back through deductions via their Airtel Money accounts.
International remittances were highlighted last year by the government of Ghana as a key contributor to Mobile Money’s growth, as new partnerships enabled customers to receive international money transfers directly into their accounts
Perhaps the most exciting thing to come out of the new regulations is the approval by the Central Bank for Mobile Money customers to earn interest on the balance held in their account.
As of early 2017, customers will be able to receive interest of between 1.5 percent to 7 percent every three months. So far, just one other country allows this. In Tanzania, three Mobile Money providers now offer interest dividends on customer accounts.
Understandably, offerings like these have raised eyebrows among some of the nation’s banks, who question whether telephone companies should be offering financial services that traditionally fall under the banking sector.
It’s all part of a wider discussion around the role of digital services in providing much needed financial services to unbanked and hard-to-reach customers.
So far Ghana’s banks have mostly recognised the opportunity in partnering with telephone companies. They gain access to a new customer base and supporting Mobile Money’s role in helping Ghana move towards a cashless economy.
Ghana has realized that slow and steady wins the race. Now the country is well on the way to maintained Mobile Money success.
Alix Murphy is a senior mobile analyst at World Remit.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”