Mobile Money Growth: Even Better News for Fraudsters

I am behind with my reading. I would like to blame the pandemic but that would be a stretch. If anything, you would think working from home should mean I have more time to read. Skimming through the GSMA’s State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money 2021, I wanted to see what this report says not just about the growth of mobile money but also matters of assurance of this service. I attended the presentation of the report when it was issued weeks ago but that afternoon we had a barbecue at my home hence my attention was understandably divided.

According to this report, with 310 deployments live in 96 countries, there are now 1.2 billion registered mobile money accounts worldwide, with 300 million of these active on a monthly basis. USD1.2bn is processed every day by mobile money platforms, there are 5.2 million unique agents are in this value chain and some USD1bn crosses international borders each month, a value which is growing 65% year on year. Step aside cryptocurrencies!

However, the report is quite thin on matters of assurance and specifically I was interested in fraud. I do see some bits such as:

In line with GSMA’s efforts to encourage ecosystem development and enable inclusive and interconnected mobile financial infrastructures, the GSMA launched the Interoperability Test Platform, the first end-to-end lab environment of its kind for industry participants to test in an interoperable ecosystem. The Mobile Money Certification is continuing to provide a comprehensive AML/CFT and fraud risk management and consumer protection framework, with certified providers reaching over 210 million accounts.


In some cases, fee waivers have led to higher rates of fraud and/or arbitrage by mobile money users who can avoid paying fees. Quantifying losses from fraud or arbitrage is complex at best, if not extremely difficult.

With growth comes complexity. Are operators doing all they can to ensure they are assuring mobile money as well as they should? I daresay they are not. I chat regularly with RAFM heads in Africa. I know many are struggling. Justifying investment in tools and headcount is still a challenge. The expectation is that they should do more, with less.  Retrofitting RAFM tools for the new challenges is not fast enough.

I have often held that fraudsters innovate better than us. They share information better, they hone each others’ skills faster and they reap better. We really should borrow a leaf from their book!

Beyond industry surveys that show explosive growth, perhaps it is time we also gave more attention to surveys such as that of the Risk & Assurance Group which has started tracking the impact of mobile money fraud on operators and customers. Along with the good news, we need to be aware of the bad before it becomes ugly.

I am fearful that we may all be dancing to the music of growth and forget that even in the crowd, some of the people dancing vigorously are pickpockets.

Joseph Nderitu
Joseph Nderitu
Joseph Nderitu is a director at Integrated Risk Services Ltd and specializes in revenue assurance. He previously worked as Head of Revenue Assurance and Fraud Management at Vodacom's operation in Tanzania, having previously served in the same role at Vodacom Mozambique.

Before his work with Vodacom, Joseph was an internal audit manager for Airtel, with responsibility that covered their 17 countries in Africa. Whilst at Airtel, Joseph led reviews of the Revenue Assurance, Customer Service and Sales & Marketing functions.

Prior to his stint at Airtel, Joseph was an RA manager at Safaricom in Kenya. He holds an MSc Degree in Information Systems.