Regional Conference on Mobile Money Services Opens In Tokeh

A three day regional conference on mobile money was held recently at the Place resort in Tokeh outside the capital Freetown, organized by the bank of Sierra Leone in collaboration with the International Growth Centre, UNDP and UNCDF. The objective of the conference was to create an opportunity for experience sharing among participating countries, learn from experiences of other sub- Saharan African countries, identify possible reforms to policy regulations/guidelines that would promote the optimal use of mobile money as a part of the financial services tool kit for economic development. It is also to propose next steps for each participating country in the WAMZ/ sub- region and identify potential areas for further research.

Declaring the conference open the minister of state in the ministry of finance and economic planning AlhajiFodayMoseraysaid that globally not many people do have a banking account. In Africa it is estimated that only 20 percent of families do have a bank account. This he said is as a result of many factors ranging from time spent in the bank, lack of trust and lots more.

Mobile money transfers now makes it easier for family members, friends to transfer money that is less expensive and very much comfortable. It enables people without a banking account to transfer money with ease. It creates employment and help payment in a quick manner.

The minister of state further noted that despite these services provided there are challenges and the reason for guidelines that have now been provided by the bank. How do we ensure mobile money transfers are effective, affordable? What are the implications; these are the issues the conference will be looking at for the next three days.

The outgoing governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone began by thanking the International Growth Centre and the United Nations Capital Development Fund for partnering with the bank of Sierra Leone for organizing the workshop. He said the forum is of great importance to the bank and determines the use of telecommunication as an avenue to ensure that as many Sierra Leoneans as possible are included in the formal financial system of our country. The rapid growth of mobile money in Africa is a phenomenon which has few precedents in the history of finance and banking and which has implications which are likely to prove profound for the financial sector, business, general public and public policy.

Trying to understand what these implications might provide the motivation for this workshop, which brings together academics, practitioners form the industry and policy makers.

The Governor said the conference will hear and discuss both the results of academic research and views of industry professionals. Mobile banking has already had a major impact on broadening access to basic financial services in Africa.

The benefits in terms of financial inclusion will themselves have important economic consequences, for business and household welfare. But I think that we are probably still only at the beginning of the transport which mobile banking will create in our economy and society. It is important to highlight what I think are some of the key issues which we need to study and debate if we are to better understand the changes which mobile money will bring about and their implications,” he said.

The representative of the Sierra Leone Association of Commercial Banks Shola Taylor Pearce in her statement said mobile financial services has without a doubt done so much in easing easy transfer of money, as it saves time, and very much secured. There are 31 banks across the country including branches. Some areas do not have a bank and the only way people transact moneys through mobile money. This is playing a key role in the economy and it continues to help a lot.

Mrs. Taylor Pearce said the Sierra Leone economy is a cash- driven economy but also noted that access to credit and loans is difficult. The banks she said see mobile money as an opportunity for the mobile companies to collaborate and work together in this direction.

The conference ends today with not only high hope of learning but also sharing experiences of other countries such as Kenya and other east African countries on the success and challenges in mobile money transfers.


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