Use of digital financial services (DFS) went up in the first quarter (Q1) of 2020 as reflected in the improvement of transactions as compared to the quarter ended December, Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) figures released on Thursday.
RBM’s National Payment System (NPS) Q1 report for 2020 indicates that volumes and values of DFS transactions registered a marginal increase of 0.5 percent and 5.9 percent to 90 million and K1 440.3 billion, respectively.
As compared to the corresponding Q1 of 2019, the transactions represent a significant rise of 42.8 percent and 87.6 percent, respectively.
On the other hand, registered customers for non-bank mobile money services also grew by 16.9 percent to 7.2 million during the review while mobile money agent network grew by eight percent to 56 353, thereby increasing the number of access points natonwide.
Mobile banking and Internet banking subscribers also rose by 7.9 percent and eight percent to 904 737 and 213 446, respectively, during the review period.
Reads the report: “During the period under review, DFS transactions, which include payments processed through channels such as Internet banking, point of sale [POS], mobile payment solutions and automated teller machines [excluding cash withdrawals] rose.
“This suggests that stakeholder efforts to drive increased adoption and usage of electronic payments in the country are bearing results as the transaction numbers keep showing a yearly upward trend.”
Going forward, RBM said the economic impact of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is expected to have a reducing effect on the level of transactions in all payment streams.
RBM spokesperson Mbane Ngwira observed in an interview that digital payments offer the lowest cost access means to formal financial services.
“The use of platforms such as mobile money has become attractive for rural-based clients because whenever they want to cash out, they are normally in contact with agents within their locality, whom they are already familiar with unlike in bank branches where they meet strange faces and this sometimes scares people away,” he said.
Consumers Association of Malawi executive director John Kapito on Saturday said that while they have benefited from digital financial services, consumers want service providers to eliminate network challenges that prohibit consumers from using their services, especially now when digital payent is the way to go.
He said: “The importance of using digital financial services cannot be overemphasised when brick and mortar is being discouraged as a way to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“We, however, want glitches such as network problems eliminated.”