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Just a decade ago, there were still some countries with no mobile service at all. Since then, wireless telephone coverage has enveloped the globe. Mobile phone subscriptions have skyrocketed from 1 billion in to an estimated 4.

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The fastest growth rates have been in low-income countries. In Africa mobile phone penetration has soared from just 1 in 50 people at the turn of the century to 28 percent.

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The World Bank b says this growth has been driven primarily by new wireless technologies and liberalization of telecommunications markets, which enabled faster and less costly network rollout. The project is vital to the economic development of the landlocked country, where fixed-line phone connections are not available to even 1 in people. Subscribers benefit from access, reliable service, and reduced costs due to increased competition and diverse product offerings see Box 2.

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In less than a year the network, Orange Centrafrique, had signed up , subscribers, indicating an eager consumer base. The price of access to information and communication technology ICT continues to fall due to technological advances, market growth, and increased competition, a trend that is especially important in allowing people in developing countries to take full advantage of ICT services. The World Bank b says that in recent years, steep price reductions have contributed to the rapid expansion in mobile phone use in many countries see chart.

Vijay Mahajan

Increased use of prepaid service allows mobile customers to make payments in small amounts instead of having to commit to fixed monthly subscriptions, leading to higher penetration rates in poor and rural areas. Financial institutions are now offering mobile banking systems that allow customers to transfer funds to businesses and families, often radically bringing down transaction costs. Today, mobile banking means mobile phones and other wireless devices that offer basic transaction services in every continent.

Poor households have more complex financial needs than many realize.

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They save by buying building materials or livestock, get advances against burial societies or from shops, receive remittances, and deposit funds with neighbors. Collins and others show that households in Bangladesh use at least four informal and formal financial services, and one-third use more than 10 services.

Most of these services are inconvenient, costly, and risky. Using technology to deliver services promises to improve cost, security, and convenience for poor people, while making it commercially viable to serve them.

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Breadwinners in urban markets who used to carry cash home to their villages can now send electronic value home via mobile phones, saving time and money. Travelers who ran the risk of robbery now store value on mobile phones before a long trip, and then withdraw it at an agent at their destination.

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Today, branchless banking channels are widely accepted as a way to extend the banking system to rural and remote areas. Banking correspondents—or agents—in post offices, gas stations, or mom-and-pop stores are increasingly seen as a way to convert electronic messages from phones or cards with point-of-sale devices into cash in the hands of poor people. Accelerants for Growth in Africa: Description Updates More Information. Description Copyright Dimensions: Unlimited one-month access with your purchase.

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