Published on 24 Sep 2021

Mobile payment in Africa set to multiply

Financial transactions are going digital at a rapid pace as connectivity improves.

by Johan Burger

Close up customer hands making a mobile payment at the coffee shop

The number of mobile payment users in sub-Saharan Africa is set to increase from the current 400 million to 650 to 750 million by 2025. The potential size of the African mobile payments market may approach 850 million customers. African consumers contribute US$2.5 trillion to US$3 trillion in transaction volume, resulting in annual earnings from servicing these financial transactions of US$25 billion to US$30 billion.

While the overall number of mobile transactions in Africa is high, use across the continent is inconsistent. Kenya and Ghana both have mature mobile payments sectors and account for much of the business on the continent. Digital transactions via mobile wallets and phones represent 87% of Kenya's GDP and 82% in Ghana. However, less than 50% of financial transactions occur through mobile payments across the rest of the continent.

African telecoms companies MTN and Vodacom launched “super-apps”, some in collaboration with the likes of Alipay from China. Mobile devices will reportedly become the payment platform of choice as African economies develop. Banks will have little option but to compete in the mobile payments and other phone-based transactions spaces. Success will provide banks with access to new business opportunities in education, energy, healthcare and transportation.

The use of digital platforms offers the potential to develop more holistic solutions to payment challenges facing African consumers, and positions Africa as the “next foreground for exponential growth." Two factors raised broad interest in mobile money transactions, i.e., the Covid-19 pandemic and more significant customer awareness. Africans are increasingly likely to have mobile phones and be eager for services that contribute to a higher quality of life.[1]


  • Digital payment platforms have indeed grown exponentially in countries such as Kenya and Ghana. However, the real potential for growth lies in Nigeria with its 200 million consumers. This country's initial uptake was slow due to a constraining regulatory environment, which has reportedly been addressed. The MTN and Vodacom superapps are also likely to play a significant role in increasing uptake in their areas of operations. In South Africa, Vodacom has twice failed to successfully launch M-Pesa and needs to succeed with its new app. Alibaba’s initiatives to support e-commerce in East Africa (as in Ethiopia and Rwanda), and its eventual expansion into the rest of Africa, will also boost uptake of mobile money platforms on the continent. The same goes for Jumia’s e-commerce expansion. The spread of the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to drive higher levels of mobile money use instead of physical cash.


Ghana's Zeepay MD Andrew Takyi-Appiah announced that the startup intends to raise US$10 million from equity to fund the creation of new mobile-money hubs in East and Southern Africa, with Rwanda and South Africa as likely locations. The funds will ramp up marketing, distribution, and hiring staff for these hubs. The hubs will provide processing centres and back-office capabilities. To date, Zeepay grew mainly through local investments. It is now targeting investments from remittance companies and private-equity firms.

Zeepay is active in nine markets and aims to double the count this year, including Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gambia, Madagascar and Tanzania. Côte d'Ivoire and Zimbabwe host Zeepay's second-and third-largest markets, respectively. Zeepay also lined up alliances with Orange, MTN and local players.

Zeepay provides digital rails to connect mobile-money wallets, tokens, bank cards and ATMs. It began operations in its largest market, Ghana, in 2016. It received an Electronic Money Issuer license to operate as a mobile financial services company from the Bank of Ghana in April 2020. In September 2020, Visa signed an agreement to allow diaspora Africans to send money directly into Visa debit and prepaid cards in Ghana. The company aims for 100,000 transactions per month in each of its new markets. It is targeting 2 million transactions in 2021 for a value of US$400 million.

Zeepay's partners screen for money laundering, while the firm conducts its own secondary screening.[2]

According to a survey by the Bank of Ghana, there were 14.7m mobile money accounts as of May 2020. The country also boasts over 70 fintech firms. Ghanian fintech start-ups are filling the gap in financing that bigger banks have thus far ignored. They are able to provide loans to small and medium enterprises (SME) at terms that are far more favourable. Customers are also finding it easier to pay for goods and services by using mobile money services. Digital payment platforms such as JumiaPay, Google Pay and PayPal have transformed payment processes, allowing consumers to transact from the comfort of their homes and offices. Consumers are now spending more money and time online with an increase in value added services from fintech companies. During the Covid-19-induced lockdowns and movement restrictions, fintech platforms enabled Ghanaians to live safely by providing a means to pay utility bills, renew television subscriptions, and purchase gaming vouchers.[3]


  • Africa can be seen as the scene where fintech platforms and mobile money services exploded, with Safaricom’s M-Pesa at the forefront of the charge. Traditional banks thought the initial platform to be a gimmick and ignored the inherent threat posed by mobile money platforms, to their detriment. Several mobile money services are available on the continent, with telecommunications companies leading the charge with their mobile money platforms. Banks are struggling to play catch-up, with digital versions of the bricks and mortar model the typical business model they embrace. With a huge population, the industry is by no means saturated, and one can expect several new entrants over the next decade or so. 


Additional reading

Gilbert, P. Kenya, Ghana dominate mobile payment utilization rates. Connecting Africa. 17 September 2020. Available at  Accessed 12 December 2020.

Whitehouse, D. 2021. Ghana's Zeepay plans mobile-money expansion to South Africa, Rwanda. The Africa Report. 5 January 2021. Available at  Accessed 19 March 2021.

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