Mobile payment and financial inclusion in Morocco

Morocco’s financial inclusion strategy is helping shift a large chunk of the country’s informal economy to the formal one, explains Azzedine El Mountassir Billah.
Azzedine El Mountassir Billah, Former Managing Director of the Moroccan National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT).

By Azzedine El Mountassir Billah

Azzedine El Mountassir Billah is the Former Managing Director of Morocco’s National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT)

20 Nov 2020

For the last 30 years, Morocco has used financial inclusion, among other levers, to foster the economic and social development of women, young people, low income families, the rural population and micro-enterprises.

This started in the mid-nineties with the launch of microcredit programmes, giving those without bank accounts access to credit. This proved to be a great success with 13 players currently offering microfinance services to around a million active customers involving outstanding credit of around €600m on hundreds of thousands of new loans each year.

A National Strategy for Financial Inclusion was launched in 2019, aimed at further improving access to financial services and raising the financial account penetration rate from 34 percent to 47 percent of the adult population within five years.

This strategy will capitalise on the success of microfinance services and further develop them as well as accelerate the development of mobile financial services, particularly mobile payment services.

The design of the mobile payment ecosystem was launched in 2016 with the aim of increasing financial inclusion as well as decreasing cash circulation, by relying on alternative service networks adapted to the unbanked population.

By relying on mobile phones, which have a very high penetration in Morocco, mobile financial services are accessible to the unbanked population and have the potential to accelerate financial inclusion. Moreover, paying by mobile phone helps reduce cash circulation dematerialising money deposits and collection.

"By relying on mobile phones, which have a very high penetration in Morocco, mobile financial services are accessible to the unbanked population and have the potential to accelerate financial inclusion"

The Moroccan mobile payment ecosystem now boasts more than 20 market players (payment institutions) that have implemented payment solutions enabling cash in and cash out, point of sale payment, money transfer and bill payments. These technical solutions are interoperable and provide real time processing with a switch enabling transactions between different players’ platforms.

Meanwhile the Moroccan authorities have implemented a series of measures to promote mobile payment usage. These include digital opening procedures for accounts capped at €500 to improve and facilitate user access and Government social and welfare benefits delivered using the mobile payment system.

Subsidies to around 1.2 million households that encourage the school attendance of children from underprivileged areas, for example, should gradually be granted on mobile financial accounts. ax exemptions for mobile payment transactions over a five-year period for small shops have also been introduced.

Fast-moving consumer goods distribution companies have also been prompted to accept mobile payments from retail shops; while payment institutions have also been asked to develop their network of access points with the ambition of delivering 35,000 service points within five years.

A marketing campaign was also launched in early 2021 to promote the use of mobile payment services by the Economic Interest Group comprising all mobile payment ecosystem players

There are currently 1.5 million mobile payment services customers, that is people who have opened a mobile payment account. Within five years, the number of active mobile financial accounts is projected to reach 5 million, the deposits on these accounts should reach €6bn and financial flows are expected to be approximately €40bn.

Among the services currently offered are utility bill payments that adds to money transfer and point of sale transactions, all delivered through customers’ mobile phones. These services are accessible through all sorts of mobile phones, even basic and feature phones and not limited to Smartphones. Over the next months and years additional financial services are expected to be offered through mobile phones by payment institutions.

In conclusion, the deployment of Mobile Financial Services with a heavy use of digital channels is expected to account for a large part of the financial inclusion increase and cash usage reduction in Morocco, and will help pave the way for a full-fledged social inclusion shifting a large chunk of the informal economy to the formal one.

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