Rwanda: How Mobile Money Is Leading the Drive Toward a Cashless Economy
Rwanda, February, 04 2015 -
Since its launch in 2011, the nation's journey toward a cashless economy has registered steady progress with benefits such as reducing financial exclusion and enhancing customer experience.
Locally, the roll out of a cashless economy is dependent on automated teller machines, point of sale devices and mobile money transactions.
Statistics from the Ministry of Youth and ICT as of December 2014 indicate that mobile money was the greatest facilitator of cashless economy, with the number of subscribers growing by over 120 per cent from 2,538,651 to about 5,585,075.
The same period saw the number of mobile money transactions double to over 100 million up from Rwf691.5 billion which was more than twice the amount transacted in the previous year.
In 2013, Rwf330 billion was transacted while in 2012, total transactions amounted to Rwf161 billion.
The ministry said the country will continue registering steady economic growth as mobile telecom operators step up their efforts to acquire more subscribers to the payment services.
Meanwhile, card-based payment system transactions were worth Rwf247.9 billion as of September last year, according to statistics from the National Bank of Rwanda.
In the previous year, same period, Rwf130.6 billion had been transacted.
The same BNR statistics indicate that Point of Sale devices stood at 1,128 up from 829 in the previous year with about Rwf 7.5 billion worth of payments being made through the devices as of September last year.
In the same period in 2013, the payments made through the point of sale devices stood at about Rwf8.4 billion.
Minister for Youth and ICT Jean Philbert Nsengimana, said in an interview, that cashless economy is an objective shared by both the financial and ICT sectors and that they already had a team charged with putting in place the necessary tools as players were already in the market.
"Mobile financial service penetration is a step toward the attainment of a cashless economy but a lot still needs to be done. We want to get to a point where you do not need to use cash to make payments," the minister said.
He said there were easy courses of action to facilitate the process such as driving up point of sale acceptance so as to increase sale outlets where clients can pay using their cards.
"At an outlet, where a user may want to spend money, you find that cards are not accepted and one still needs to carry cash which does not help cashless economy," Nsengimana said.
Noting that there were several service providers in the sector, he said government was committed to fast-tracking the movement to cashless economy.
Speaking recently at a monthly cashless payments workshop at The Office, a co-working space in Kigali, Lucy Mbabazi, the head of Emerging Market Solutions at Visa called for more awareness on the benefits of cashless payments to the public to increase uptake.
She said sensitisation was not solely a role of the government or the private sector, noting that shared efforts could facilitate the process.
She said the benefits of the system would also contribute toward national development since digital movement of money helps curb inflation as well as save the cost that would have otherwise been spent on printing money.
Traders in Kigali said they had no issue with the adoption of cashless sales as long as the market adopts them.
Seraphine Umutesi Gasana who runs Heritage Curio Shop in the city centre, said most traders are willing to accept mobile money payments but they are yet to adopt card payments systems as their usage among clients was still low.
"Point of Sale devices come at a cost and you can only purchase them when you know that you will have a significant section of clients using them," Umutesi said.