The Vice President of Ghana, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia on Wednesday, August 19, 2020, while addressing the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) third town hall meeting and results fair in Accra, made a number of claims regarding mobile money interoperability and the gains made with its introduction.
Among other things, Dr Bawumia said Ghana has become the fastest growing mobile money market in Africa owing to the operationalization of mobile money interoperability and that, 15 million people in the country have mobile money accounts as a result.
“Thanks to mobile money interoperability, Ghana is now the fastest growing mobile money market in Africa. Mobile money transactions now dwarf banking transactions. The total number of transactions recorded under mobile money as at December 2019 was 200 million, whereas that of banks was 599,000 (just about 3% of the mobile money number). Over 15 million people have mobile money accounts in Ghana!” the Vice President said.
We fact-checked three claims from the above statements and report as follows:
Claim 1: “Thanks to mobile money interoperability, Ghana is now the fastest growing mobile money market in Africa.” – Dr Bawumia
Mobile Money Interoperability is a service that allows direct and seamless transfer of funds from one mobile money wallet to another mobile money wallet across networks. It was launched in May 2018 by the Vice President Dr Bawumia in Accra.
According to the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems Limited (GhIPSS) which manages the system, the interoperability platform was used 5.12 million times between January and March 2020, up from 1.1 million times reported in the first quarter of 2019.
A press release by the World Bank on June 14, 2019, indicates the interoperability system has ensured “growth in the number of financial access points over the past five years” despite the challenges in making the economy financially inclusive.
The World Bank in its 4th edition of the Ghana Economic Update, the latest report, published on June 1, 2019, and related to the above observation, rated Ghana as being the fastest growing Mobile Money market in Africa.
“Mobile phone penetration has created opportunities for the expansion of financial services and increased the role of non-financial institutions as much as e-money issuers, positioning Ghana as the fastest growing mobile money market in Africa,” excerpts of the report reads.
Claim 2: Mobile money transactions now dwarf banking transactions
The Bank of Ghana which regulates the banking sector in the country released a report on the country’s financial and economic performance for December 2019.
In the document, the data captured financial transactions for the period of December 2018 to December 2019.
The total number of mobile money transactions for December 2019, per the report, was 200 million with a value of GH¢ 32.8 billion.
The total number of cheques cleared for December 2019 was 599,000, as stated by the Vice President.
Other data in the document included ACH Debit which recorded 73,000 transactions while ACH credit transactions were 772,000 transactions.
The number of E-zwich transactions was also 982,000.
Per the data, we notice that the 599,000 figure quoted by the Vice President was specific to the number of cheques cleared.
In providing education on whether clearance of cheques alone represents the meaning of banking transactions, a banking consultant, Nana OtuoAcheampong said there were various types of banking transactions including clearance of cheques.
In reference to the claim, he indicated that ACH credit and ACH debit as reported in the Bank of Ghana’s statement “are banking transactions”.
“Unless in his speech he tried to differentiate between the types of banking transactions… Maybe he took the cheque clearing segment only but globally, it is not the only transaction that a bank can undertake,” Nana Otuo Acheampong explained.
On what the ACH credit and ACH debit system was, he said they were interbank transactions that had to do with the debiting one’s account and crediting another’s account upon the instruction of the payee.
“If I give instructions to my bank and ask them to make payment to you, I haven’t signed a cheque but through ACH, they are able to do the clearing,” he said.
Claim 3: Over 15 million people have mobile money accounts in Ghana!
Verdict: Insufficient evidence
To look into this claim, we accessed the Bank of Ghana’s latest Summary of Economic and Financial Data; for May 2020.
In the report, we found information on the number of registered Mobile Money accounts as well as the number of active Mobile Money accounts from March 2019 to March 2020.
The data for both periods and the two categories are represented in the table below:
|March 2019||March 2020|
|Registered mobile money accounts||29.6 million||34.3 million|
|Active mobile money accounts||12.7 million||14.8 million|
From the table above, we gather that Ghana’s Vice President was making reference to the number of active mobile money accounts, 14.8 million as of March 2020 (15 million approximately) in his speech.
Relying on data for the number of active mobile money accounts to make a case for the number of users may appear misleading, which is the position of Sam George in his argument.
Indeed, with the number of registered mobile money accounts far exceeding Ghana’s estimated population, it will only be reasonable to assume that some people in Ghana use more than one mobile phone or numbers and possibly have two or more active mobile money accounts.
According to the Ghana Telecommunications Chamber, the number of mobile voice subscriptions in Ghana is over 41 million. But this number far exceeds the country’s estimated population of 30.9 million which also makes a good case about some users having multiple accounts.
The above notwithstanding, it is important to note that getting the actual number of users will require a lot more work including mobile networks collaborating to de-duplicate their data.
This may not entirely solve the problem because according to Dr William Derban, the founder of the Forum for Financial Inclusion Africa, a critical mass such as persons who do have personal mobile money accounts but conduct MoMo transactions through merchants over the counter may still not be accounted for.
“People using mobile money is not the same as registered accounts [but] some people can use mobile money over the counter to receive money and are not counted by this definition,” he said.
“While the GSMA [Global System for Mobile Communications] is an authority in this, it could be that a country may have its own definition that they use,” he added.
However, Dr Derban, while focusing on financial inclusion, said “[it] is more than just access to accounts (bank or mobile). It is more about the number of people who use it and most importantly, how they can use financial services to improve their lives. Can they save, can they borrow, do people have the right level of financial and digital skills to make informed decisions about their finances? Are they protected? These are areas that we need to look into carefully to ensure that the growth in access to finance via mobile money has the maximum impact on our people.”
While it appears most appropriate to make reference to mobile money accounts rather than mobile money users, industry players sometimes use both interchangeably, owing to the complexity involved in deriving the exact number of mobile money users in most populations.
The reporter, Jonas Nyabor, produced this fact-check under the auspices of the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship in partnership with Citinewsroom to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and to enhance media literacy in the country.