Mobile Money, Financial Inclusion and Development in Africa


The symposium focused on addressing questions and issues within a multidisciplinary framework that covered the topics related to the trends in financial instruments, areas of tension and broader finance frameworks.

Mobile Money, Financial Inclusion and Development in Africainline-block

April 19, 21-22, 2017

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 

The Cornell Institute for African Development (IAD) in collaboration with the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD) recently hosted a symposium on the theme of, ‘Mobile Money, Development and Financial Inclusion in Africa.’

Program Schedule

The mobile money arena is rapidly growing as a means of expanding financial inclusion across emerging markets. Financial inclusion, the development of novel methods to enable the poor to access financial services, is considered a pre-requisite for driving those populations out of poverty and driving economic growth. The multidimensional relationship between mobile money, financial inclusion and development requires interdisciplinary interrogation that examines a whole range of issues at national, regional and international levels. Issues such as products, services, regulatory structures and economic migration and integration, can have long term impact on economies.

Additionally, it requires an examination of how to better design mobile financial solutions for the poor, ranging from technological capabilities and transactions to more challenging issues like addressing limited literacy and numeracy for consumers. Thus, the symposium will explore all the above issues and the linkages between mobile technology as a tool for facilitating financial inclusion within the frameworks of both development policy and practice for growth in Africa.

Why Mobile Commerce and Financial Inclusion must drive African Development?The new 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2015, with 169 specific targets, aim to facilitate a conversation and action that drive a universal agenda to ensure sustainable development.Financial inclusion is recognized as a major factor inhibiting economic development in Africa. According to C-GAP, current research demonstrates that financial inclusion has benefits to both individuals—at the family or community level–and at the national economy level. CGAP’s evidence shows that access to financial institutions and products can facilitate people’s higher returns on capital, increasing incomes and ultimately affecting economic growth1. Thus, a focus on specific SDGs such as poverty elimination (SDG1), gender equality (SDG5) and industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG9) within the framework of partnerships (SDG17) at different levels, can have a positive correlation between growth and financial inclusion. However, Africa registers the lowest levels of financial inclusion amongst poor populations globally. Experts estimate that in 2014, adult ownership of mobile phones was approximately 80% in emerging economies, while only 55% had financial accounts. Why is this the trend, when “delivering financial services by mobile phone could benefit billions of people by spurring inclusive growth that adds $3.7 trillion to the GDP of emerging economies within a decade” or the equivalent of 6 percent by 2025?

To truly transform the financial lives of underserved people, mobile money must become a central monetization mechanism, universally available across a range of digital lives. By making mobile money more essential to the financial lives of underserved people, greater financial inclusion, economic development and economic growth can be achieved. Mobile money driven by financial inclusion has already proven that it helps people access products and services that help them in addressing issues relating to health, education, clean water and sanitation, and the environment—ultimately reducing poverty.

The symposium will focus on addressing a wide range of questions and issues within a multidisciplinary framework that covers topics from trends in financial instruments (e.g. mobile money; revolutionary credit/consumer protection; gender/inequalities; alternative lending schemes; trust; etc) to areas of tension (e.g. financial exclusion vs. inclusion) to broader finance frameworks (e.g. universal financial systems; inclusive/responsible finance; etc).

The conference is co-sponsored by the Emerging Markets Program, Dyson School of Agricultural Economics & Management; Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion (IMTFI); Emerging Markets Institute, Johnson Graduate School of Management; International Programs, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (IP-CALS) and, the Einaudi Center for International Studies.