On Monday the 20th of March 2017, our Senior Researcher, Onkokame Mothobi presented the paper “Infrastructure Deficiencies and Adoption of Mobile Money in Sub-Saharan Africa” at the CSAE conference: Economic Development in Africa. The paper was co-authored with Lukasz Grzybowski. It makes use of Research ICT Africa Household survey data to respond to the main research question.
We use survey data conducted in 11 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2011 to analyze how the availability of physical infrastructure influences adoption of mobile phones and usage of mobile services. The availability of physical service infrastructure is approximated by data on nighttime light intensity in the areas in which survey respondents reside. After controlling for a number of individual and household characteristics including disposable income, we find that adoption of mobile phones is higher in areas with better physical infrastructure. However, in the group of mobile phone adopters, the use of mobile phones for mobile financial transactions is negatively influenced by the level of infrastructure. Mobile phone users who live in areas with poor infrastructure are more likely to rely on mobile phones to make financial transactions than individuals living in areas with better infrastructure. On the other hand, the use of mobile phones to access services such as email, Skype, social media networks and Internet browsing is not dependent on the availability of physical. Our results support the notion that mobile phones improve the livelihoods of individuals residing in remote areas by providing them with access to financial services which are otherwise not available physically. Moreover, we find that all income groups equally benefit from mobile financial services.