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How Africa’s Mobile Network Operators are evolving?

Adoption of mobile money has seen significant growth around the world. Africa is witnessing the most growth among all regions, with a CAGR of 37% since 2014. Mobile money transactions have already surpassed cash transactions in Africa, which has been a cash-driven market since long.


Mobile network operators (MNOs) have established a solid footing in the market, with the rising mobile money transactions, both in terms of numbers and value. Several companies, including MTN, Airtel-Tigo, Vodafone etc., are offering mobile money services in Sub-Sharan Africa.  

Services offered by MNOs extend far beyond just a mode of payment like M-Pesa which enabled the unbanked to send and receive money online. Today, they expand to a broad array of financial services, including loan, insurance, and cross-border remittances.  

Moreover, there has been a massive rise in the number of mobile money subscribers in Africa. With that, the number of transactions and value has risen to the highest of all time. A total of $22.6 billion in digital transactions was processed in December 2019. 

The market is thriving

Africa’s mobile money market has expanded and diversified in recent years. MNOs continue to dominate the landscape in terms of user base and accessibility of services they tend to offer. In Ghana, MTN has 24 million subscribers, nearly half of the total subscribers in the country. Airtel has a user base of 10.2 million subscribers in Uganda. 

Over the past decades, many factors have resulted in massive market growth.  

Digitization reaching newer heights

Thanks to the dramatic rise in the internet and mobile phones, Africans are moving towards digital or mobile payments like never before. The number of subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa reached 469 million in 2019 with a growth rate of 11.9%. As a result, digital money represented the majority of transactions for the first time, more than cash payments. Furthermore, the number of globally registered mobile money accounts surpassed one billion. Mobile money has also become a choice of money for youth in Africa

More players entering the market

As the mobile money market continues to grow, more and more players are entering the African market. Many African countries, such as Uganda and Ghana, have more than four mobile network operators. This creates tough market competition for every player. As a result, every MNO aims to offer better services and user experience in order to sustain in the market. All this leads to better services for consumers. 

The spread of COVID-19

Africa also turned to mobile payments as a tool to curb the COVID-19 spread and maintain social distancing. The market saw double-digit growth in the number of mobile transactions as people avoid making payment in cash. Governments and MNOs on the continent implemented measures to enable a shift from cash to mobile payments. Many reduced or waived off transaction fees to promote mobile payments in countries like Kenya and Ghana.  


The African mobile money market is moving from emerging to a more mature state. MNOs offer better services, partnering with governments and banks to scale up the level of services being offered. Although they have established a stable position in the market, reaching a completely cashless experience is still a long way to go. Adopting newer and better technologies and practising innovation can help build a society that is ready for the future.