Mobile Money for the Poor

Mobile Money for the Poor

The Challenge

Mobile phones have transformed lives in rich and poor countries alike. Of the world’s 7 billion people, there are now 6 billion phone subscriptions globally compared with 2 billion or so bank accounts. Across 40 UN-designated Least Developed Countries (LDCs) surveyed by UNCDF, mobile phone penetration was at 30% while access to a bank account was 14% on average. More striking are the growth rates – with mobile phone penetration growth reaching double digits, growing at a rate of 23% a year, while financial access growth is flat. We know from the example of M-Pesa in Kenya that mobile money has the potential to reach millions of users in the time it has taken traditional microfinance to reach thousands. But LDCs present particular challenges for branchless and mobile financial services to reach scale, such as: lower overall population, economic activity and disposable incomes; less developed business and regulatory environments, and; poor physical, technological and financial infrastructure. In fact, the majority of mobile financial services in LDCs have failed to live up to expectations in the first few years where the volume of person-to-person money transfers is not growing in line with the experience of larger, emerging markets.

How We Are Helping?

UNCDF, Sida and AusAID have developed a programme to support branchless and mobile financial services in a select group of LDCs where UNCDF currently operates to demonstrate how the correct mix of financial, technical and policy support can build a robust branchless and mobile financial services ecosystem in LDCs. Activities in each country will be designed to support the specific needs and can include:

  • Getting service providers the technical support they need on-site;
  • Supporting the development better products that are based on customers’ needs and demands;
  • Building a stronger, more extensive network of financial service agents;
  • Assisting central banks and other policy makers to build an enabling environment;

Each of the LDCs in the early stages of branchless and mobile financial services and presents unique challenges. However, services such as transfers, bill payment, savings, or microinsurance can greatly improve the financial security of millions of households. Support will be provided on a competitive basis with a particular focus on partners that are committed to reaching the unbanked with appropriate, accessible and affordable services.

In Detail

Additional Information


Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P)

GoalTo demonstrate how the correct mix of technical, financial, and policy support can assist in scaling up sustainable branchless and mobile financial services that reach the poor in very low-income countries.
  • Providing financial and technical support to service providers and financial service agents;
  • Supporting market and client research to develop products and services that reach low-income and rural households;
  • Bringing large scale users into the branchless and mobile financial services system;
  • Assisting central banks to create enabling environment for branchless and mobile financial services;
Active InBenin, Lao-PDR, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia.
PartnersThe MasterCard Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Sida
Total project cost and UNCDF contribution$36,083,598.88