Could Somalia become the world’s first cashless economy?

Could Somalia become the world’s first cashless economy?

Somalia’s Hormuud Telecom already offers mobile money services but, in an effort to formalise the country’s fast-growing digital payments infrastructure and integrate it with the global financial system, Somalia’s central bank has now awarded the country’s first mobile money licence to the operator.

Hormuud Telecom has been in existence since 2002 and has more than 3.6 million subscribers, roughly three million of whom use its mobile money platform EVC Plus.

Precise figures are hard to come by, but mobile penetration – at least based on subscription – is well over 50 per cent in a  country of more than 15 million people.

Approximately 155 mobile money million transactions, worth $2.7 billion, are recorded in Somalia per month, according to a 2018 World Bank report.

Reuters reports that by granting Hormuud this licence, EVC Plus will now be subject to central bank regulation, which, according to the governor of the monetary authority, should boost confidence in the country’s mobile money system.

Although conflict continues to disrupt the country, the telecommunications market, dominated by the competitive mobile sector where seven networks compete for customers, has flourished.

More than two thirds of all payments made in Somalia are via mobile money platforms, not least due to counterfeiting. This licence award could encourage that trend, helping Somalia move towards becoming a cashless economy – possibly the world’s first.

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