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The impact of mobile financial services in low- and lower middle-income countries

What do we want to know?

This systematic review was conducted to determine the impact of mobile financial services in respect of the:

  • volume and frequency of remittances
  • use on the consumption habits of the poor
  • livelihoods in terms of productivity and income

Who wants to know and why?

Mobile money is a relatively new technology, which was introduced at the turn of the century. This systematic review addresses the recent call for more empirical investigation of the impact of mobile financial services on development, and investigates the empirical evidence. Furthermore, this systematic review provides a starting point for further research into mobile financial services, so that comparable studies can be developed towards a meta-analysis of mobile-money services, as they continue to be implemented around the world. The results of the systematic review can help inform policy-makers in respect of integrating mobile money into the delivery of services, whether in payments systems, conditional cash transfers, or in salary distribution.

What did we find?

Four studies in Africa have demonstrated significantly higher volumes of remittances received among m-financial service users compared to non-users. M-money as an intervention also leads to greater savings, although the overall difference is not statistically significant. In cases where it has been used for cash transfers in farm inputs, m-money has been found to be significantly responsible for a 54% increase in farm-inputs consumption compared to non-users. This has also contributed to an increase in household income and farm yield sold.

How did we get these results?

The systematic review involved searching through grey literature and electronic databases, using a set of inclusion and exclusion criteria. To  be included, studies had to be published after 2000, be conducted on low- and low middle-income countries, be about mobile money, involve the use of mobile phones, and report a quantitative measure of short-term (e.g. frequency and volume of remittances, consumption of goods, etc.) and long-term (e.g. savings, livelihoods) impact. Screening and extracting key information and the findings of the studies were undertaken by two people from the team, and disagreements were decided by a third screener. The same process was followed when conducting the final quality assessment of the shortened list of papers that underwent a full review.

This report should be cited as:
Alampay EA, Moshi GC, Ghosh I, Peralta MLC, Harshanti J (2017) The impact of mobile financial services in low- and lower middle-income countries. International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada, and the Department for International Development, UK.

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