Senegal’s Impressive, But Uneven, Mobile Money Expansion

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In recent months, new mobile money services launched by Société Générale de Banques au Sénégal (SGBS) and Expresso have added to the expanding sector in Senegal. According to the latest Global Findex released earlier this month by the World Bank, the adult population (aged 15+) in Senegal with mobile money accounts grew from 6 percent in 2014 to 32 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, that number grew from 12 percent to 20 percent in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, excluding high-income countries. In terms of the growth in mobile money access points, an initial analysis using the Interactive Dashboard for Senegal, developed with support from UNCDF MM4P, shows that mobile money access points more than doubled from 2016 to 2017, helping meet and serve that growing client usage. In Senegal, it is clear that mobile money operators continue to lead the industry with 95 percent of the country’s access points.


This expansion was recorded in every department across Senegal. Although uneven, the growth of mobile money operators has seemed to benefit the populations of all departments in terms of access. Tellingly, the five least served departments in 2016 saw the number of mobile money agents triple in 2017. This expansion has led to improvements in coverage; the median number of access points per 10,000 inhabitants jumped from 5.19 in 2016 to 11.83 in 2017. Additionally, in 2016 there were 11 departments that had fewer than 2.14 access points per 10,000 inhabitants. In 2017, there is only one department left in this situation.


However, as is seen in many countries, financial services are highly concentrated in urban centers, even though demand and usage are growing at a similar rate in rural areas. According to Global Findex, the adult population that made or received digital payments during the year increased from 12 percent in 2014 to 40 percent in 2017; in rural areas that number saw a similar increase from 10 percent to 35 percent over the same time period.  That strong growth in digital payment access is further corroborated by agricultural payments activity.  The percent of adults who receive payments for agricultural products by mobile phone increased by a multiple of 10 (to 21 percent) while those only receiving payments in cash dropped significantly (from 94 percent down to 58 percent in the 2014 – 2017 period).


Despite the growing usage of digital financial services in rural areas, access points remain far more limited than in urban areas.  Dakar has 35 times more access points per 10,000 inhabitants than Ranerou, the least served department (against 40 times in 2016). In 2017, there were 6 departments in Senegal that had fewer than 5 access points per 10,000 inhabitants, indicating an opportunity to financial service providers to reach rural populations. Outside of mobile money operators, all other financial service providers remained stable or slightly evolving in terms of access point growth, with the number of microfinance correspondents even declining.


Access at traditional financial service providers did increase, but more slowly than with mobile money account.  Adult access to accounts at financial institutions grew from 12 percent to 20 percent from 2014 to 2017, but it may continue to be difficult for these traditional financial service providers to keep up with the growth in mobile money given their limited local presence.  These providers are still absent from 245 of 552 communes hosting 3.2 million inhabitants.


It will be important for regulators and policy makers to determine whether, aside from the sole access, the population is able to benefit from a full range of financial products and services. We are glad to see several actors, including these regulators and policy makers, utilizing these geospatial data to monitor progress and identify underserved areas. And we are excited to see the marketplace for this type of data analytics expand, as new providers develop solutions for understanding the financial inclusion landscape.