A study by the Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) on the state of Mobile Financial Services (MFS) usage has found that most Malawians use the service for sharing mobile phone credit than actual utilisation on financial services.
The research by two Ecama members, Mirriam Matita and Takondwa Chauma, found that high costs of internet and low rural penetration of the services coupled with low financial literacy levels are key challenges that most consumers fail to utilise the available services for financial inclusion.
According to the findings, Me-to-You services of airtime sharing accounted for 53 percent while 37 percent used the service for buying airtime, four percent used the service to send money, three percent used it for receiving money, two percent used for paying bills and one percent used for unspecified services.
Said Chauma: “We found that the higher the literacy levels, the higher the probability of a person to adopt and use the mobile financial services. The main contributing factor being the structure of our economy. We have a lot of people in rural areas who may not need to pay bills it could also be that such services are complicated to use.”
The study recommended to the service providers to improve on technicalities and sensitise people to the services that would build trust and that people need to be financially educated about financial services and its importance.
Airtel Malawi head of mobile money Chris Sukasuka acknowledged that they have not done enough to sensitise consumers on the mobile financial services and what they can do to maximise the service.
TNM Plc mobile money manager Mavuto Chibowa also admitted that there is need to enhance financial literacy adding that it has given food for thought for both users and service providers.
Ecama executive director Maleka Thula said the institution conducts such research as an economic advocacy tool for government policy formulation.
“As Ecama, these kind of research dissemination remain essential because we want to be doing economic advocacy based on evidence based research.
As a member-driven professional body we encourage our members to write research papers and disseminate that help us and government make informed policy formulation,” he said.
Reserve Bank of Malawi principal analyst for national payment systems Chikondi Chigamba agreed with study findings as a true reflection of the situation on the ground but said the central bank already employed policies and regulations on how service providers can penetrate the country with their mobile financial services including the financial literacy aspects.