A survey carried out by Ericsson on m-commerce (mobile money) use in Ghana and two other African countries indicate even though mobile penetration in Ghana has crossed the 90% mark, only 9% of mobile phone owners use mobile money services in country.

Ericsson?s ConsumerLab Analytical Platform Survey for 2011/2012 sampled a total of 2,048 users and non-users of m-commerce from Ghana, Tanzania and South Africa, out of which 526 were from Ghana, 502 from Tanzania and 1,020 from South Africa.

Those interviewed were between 16 and 60 of age, and they live mostly in Accra, Ghana; Johannesburg, South Africa and Dar Es Saalam, Tanzania.

The survey also borrowed from existing statistical data from the three respective countries, and the report showed that an aggregate of 30 million people from the three countries had neither mobile phones nor bank accounts, but there is a whopping 90 million mobile phone users, out of which 50 million are unbanked and 40 million have bank accounts.

The report showed that of the total number of mobile money users in Ghana, six per cent use mobile payments (airtime top-up, merchant payment, salary payment and bill payment); three per cent use mobile banking (balance enquiry, withdrawal, deposits and credit service), and one per cent use mobile money transfers both domestically and across borders.

It stated that the top three uses of m-commerce in Ghana are airtime purchase, accessing of bank account information, and money transfer.

This is in spite of the fact that the telcos and their partners such as the banks, shops, restaurants, utility companies and others are offering a bevy of m-commerce services such as utility bill payment, shopping, payment at restaurants, m-insurance and many others.

Meanwhile, airtime purchase, money transfer and payment of bills are most popular among m-commerce users in Tanzania, while airtime purchase, receiving of salary and access of account information through m-commerce are most popular in South Africa.

The report acknowledged that in Ghana, in particular, mobile money services, which are mainly collaboration between banks and mobile operators, are wide spread, but not necessarily widely used.

At a recent Mobile Money forum organized by mobile market leader, MTN Ghana, it emerged from a number of presentations that complex SMS-based registration process, cost, limitations in the use and unreliability of the mobile networks are reasons for the low use of m-commerce in Ghana.

Panelists argued that because about 50% of mobile phone users in Ghana are illiterate, they tend to shy away from any SMS-based service, and they are also skeptical about m-commerce because they are used to the reliability of cash for business transactions.

But Ericsson officials believe in spite of the high level of illiteracy, a lot more Africans are using SMS but the telcos are not declaring the right numbers because of the interpretations regulators may give to it in terms of the revenue implications.

Indeed, MTN Ghana recently reported it recorded 9.5 million mobile money transactions worth GH?113million in two years, and it expects the figure to reach 13.5million worth some GHC300million by close of this year.

The report also showed that contrary to the generally held notion in Ghana that most mobile phone users have more than one SIM/Phone, 66% of phone users have only one SIM/Phone, 26% has two active SIMs and eight per cent has three or more.

The survey also discovered though Africans who own mobile phones are more than those who own bank accounts that has not translated into a boom in m-commerce use on the continent.

It noted that 50% of those interviewed said they were interested in m-commerce but have never used any mobile money service.

The report said the main reason identified for the low use of mobile money service had to do with how telcos and banks communicate m-commerce services to the public.

It observed that most telcos and banks use adverts to communicate m-commerce service and that has proven ineffective because the nature of the service demands that telcos and banks use demonstration and methods that teach people how to use the service, rather than using adverts.

The Ericsson ConsumerLab?s Analytical Platform is based on separate annual consumer surveys in more than 40 countries including more than 100,000 in-depth qualitative interviews, and use of existing statistics from the selected countries.

By Samuel Nii Narku Dowuona

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