Mobile payments - MTN overtakes M-Pesa to become Africas largest provider

What are mobile payment solutions?

Mobile payments are payment services that are processed via a mobile device under financial market regulation. Instead of paying with cash, cheque or credit card, a consumer can use a mobile phone to pay for services and digital or hard goods.

In developing countries, mobile payment solutions are used to extend financial services to communities whose populations do not have easy access to banking ("unbanked" or "underbanked")

Importance and growth of mobile payments in Africa

Mobile payments contribute to financial inclusion in African countries where many people still do not have a bank account. Mobile payment solutions have been on the rise in Africa for the last years.

Reasons for the enormous growth of mobile payment solutions in Africa:

  • Many people do not have a bank account
  • Use of mobile devices is rising
  • Internet penetration is rising

During the Covid pandemic, mobile payment solutions have seen a further acceleration of its growth as several African governments encouraged their populations to use mobile payments to contain the spread of the virus, particularly by waiving fees for these types of transactions.

Leading countries for mobile payments in Africa are Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

Mobile payments growth in Africa - stats

  • In 2021, Kenya recorded $55.1 billion in mobile transactions, an increase of almost 20% from 2020.
  • 84% of internet users surveyed in Kenya used their mobile phones for payments in 2021
  • In Nigeria, 60% of internet users used mobile payments in 2021, with an internet penetration of around 34%.

Leading mobile payment solution in Africa in previous years has been M-Pesa (M for mobile, pesa is Swahili for money), a mobile phone-based money transfer, payment and microfinance service launched in 2007 by Vodafone and Safaricom, the largest mobile operator in Kenya.

M-Pesa services in Africa are available in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique, DRC, Lesotho, Ghana, Egypt and South Africa.


MTN Mobile Money (MoMo) is a mobile payment solution by South African company MTN, Africa's largest mobile network operator. It is a secure electronic payment service that allows users to store, send and receive money, make payments and carry out a range of other transactions via a mobile phone.

It was launched in January 2020 and has seen strong growth since then: In March 2022, MTN announced that its mobile money service had reached 56.8 million users across Africa.  The announcement came just a few days after Safaricom announced that it boasts 51.7 million M-PESA users on the continent. This impressive growth means, that MTN MoMo overtook its rival M-PESA, which has been around for 15 years, just 2 years after being launched.

MTN plans to expand its mobile payment business in the second half of the year by bringing in external partners. Further plans are to grow its fintech business to account for at least 20% of the group's service revenue by 2025.

MTN MoMo stats:

  • 30% year-on-year growth of $1 billion in 2021 operating year
  • The number of active MoMo users increased from 10.4 million to 56.8 million compared to December 2020, resulting in monthly average revenue per user (ARPU) of $1.3 billion
  • The value of MoMo transactions increased by 56.8% to $239.4 billion (M-PESA $192.9 billion)
  • 10 billion transactions were processed, up 41.1% year-on-year (M-PESA 11.6 billion)

MTN operates in 17 African countries. MoMo, which captures MTN’s different fintech business segments (mobile banking agents, payments, remittances, loans, and insurance), is now available in 16 markets.


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