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Challenges of replacing cash with mobile payments in East Africa

February 17, 2015

Challenges of replacing cash with mobile payments in East Africa

February 17, 2015

Although mobile payments have taken off as a form of currency in East Africa, the platform is not without its challenges. Africa contains the top 75% of countries using mobile payment in the world, largely thanks to the platform’s ease of use. Reliability and security issues, however, contribute to the challenges businesses face in East Africa when converting to mobile banking.

Since 2010, the number of adults who report using mobile money platforms in East Africa has skyrocketed. In Kenya alone, a staggering 68% of adults say that they are using mobile payments instead of paper money. In other parts of Africa, Sudan and Somalia both confirm similar findings; mobile payments, after all, are easy, do not require a bank account, and are safer than carrying money on your person. As this rate reaches ever higher, there are a few key points business owners need to consider before converting to mobile.

Security issues

Mobile payment platforms have seen rapid advancement within the last five years despite vulnerabilities in the technology that can lead to some security issues. While many mobile payment platforms available in East Africa rely on SMS, it remains the least secure messaging option. However, technologies are advancing rapidly and many companies have recently begun the move to USSD as it becomes more accessible in Africa, and this will help services become much more secure.


Despite its growing prevalence, mobile banking platforms in East Africa do not always receive the necessary updates and fixes that other places in the world. Roll outs of updates or new versions to East African countries may lag somewhat behind those received by other countries, further increasing the possibility of issues like security loopholes. For this reason, it is imperative to work with a company that has a reliable track record for advancement, security and the latest infrastructures.

Customer access to mobile payment platforms

In order to use mobile payments, potential customers must first have access to mobile devices. While mobile technology is definitely more prevalent in Africa than it once was, it can still be a challenge for people in more rural areas to gain access to a mobile phone, thus enabling them to participate in mobile payments.

The learning curve

Once people do have access to the technology necessary to make mobile payments, there exists a sharp learning curve while they figure out the platform. Educational efforts must be made in conjunction with advertising so that once people have the technology in their hands, they know how to use it. 3G Direct Pay has made great strides in this area during recent years, with community outreach, social media and blogging at the forefront of their educational efforts.

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