The vast majority of mobile phone owners in developing countries are interested in using their handsets to access financial services, according to a survey from Visa.
Awareness of mobile money is already fairly high among the 2500 consumers, mobile money agents, and merchants in Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan questioned by the card giant.
Just over half of all respondents knew that they can carry out financial transactions with their handset. Ghana leads the way, with awareness at 93% and MTN the most known mobile money provider; in Pakistan 89% of the public are mobile money aware and easyPaisa is the most recognised brand.
When made aware of mobile money services, nearly 90% express interest in using them. The majority - 81% - intend to take advantage of the technology to send money to family members, while 56% would pay utility bills and 52% to save money for their family.
The primary driver and reason to adopt mobile financial services is not to establish formal savings, but rather the need to protect funds from theft and the ability to more easily send money and pay things such as bills and school fees. Across the six countries, 80% of respondents cite "safety of not having to carry around a lot of cash" as the primary perceived benefit of mobile money, while 63% list "speed of getting money to family members living far away" as the second most important benefit.
There are still significant barriers to adoption though, with two thirds citing concerns about ease of use, 55% a lack of trust in providers and agents, and 28% a lack of interoperability with other mobile money services. In addition, lack of accessibility to mobile money agents, network reliability, communication and education appear to be major barriers.
Visa says that providers need to address these concerns by making sure that their services are simple, have transparent fee structures and have extensive agent networks in place.
The study also suggests that fine tuning how a mobile money operator markets its service can have an impact on adoption. For example, the study shows that "safe keeping" rather than "saving" money is a primary driver for why people in developing countries are interested in mobile money services. Visa argues that providers should invest in research to better understand their customers' needs, tailor information, education and marketing efforts and adopt local terminology.
Hannes van Rensburg, group country manager, sub-Saharan Africa, Visa, says: "Thanks to the mobile money community, millions of previously unbanked people are now able to make basic electronic transactions such as person-to-person and bill payments. Our potential for driving far reaching social and economic change, while at the same time growing transaction volumes in developing countries, is significant. But we'll limit that potential if we don't learn to stop and really listen to our customers."