Covid-19 led to widespread regulatory limits on mobile money transaction fees to boost financial inclusion through the pandemic. How have the controls impacted mobile money operators, which earn 80%+ of revenues from transaction fees? It looks like the controls are here to stay in some countries. In others, like Tanzania, Vodacom and Airtel successfully lobbied to remove a mobile money tax.
Africa’s two biggest mobile money markets – Kenya and Ghana – were early movers to scrap fees on mostly smaller transactions soon after the pandemic hit in early 2020. Other African nations soon followed with fee limits and mobile money tax relief.
Regulators and central banks in more than 20 African countries paused or reduced mobile money taxes while raising limits and imposing transaction fee restrictions or waivers on mobile service providers.
Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Rwanda, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Gambia, Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Egypt, Morocco were just some of the countries to impose controls designed to empower millions of mostly person-to-person (P2P) and cash-to-wallet retail mobile money users at the height of the pandemic.
Eighteen months on, certain governments have reintroduced or increased mobile money taxes to help replenish pandemic hit coffers while some cross-border transfer fee caps persist.
The central bank-led measures have proven highly effective at boosting financial inclusion and are likely to remain in some countries for the foreseeable future. Initial negative attitudes by mobile money operators are slowly changing in some markets but are being reinforced in others.