Reaching the underserved: A round-table discussion on the power of mobile money

Held on Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 12.30-2.15pm


  • Gunnar Camner (GSMA)

  • Harbir Singh Nat (IFC)

  • Paul Makin (Consult Hyperion)



Over the past decade (i.e. since Vodafone and Safaricom launched M-Pesa in Kenya), mobile money has gone from a niche product to an emerging market phenomenon. According to an important new report from the GSMA (the trade body that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide), there are now 277 mobile money services live across 92 markets – including two-thirds of low- and middle-income countries. There are more than half a billion registered accounts, and it is abundantly clear that there is no better way to reach people in remote areas – in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America.

And it is not just remittances – or P2P transactions, or even airtime top-ups. Bill payments, merchant payments, credit, even insurance – the mobile offering is expanding all the time, as is interoperability with the formal banking sector.

This is immensely exciting. Indeed, it can change the entire approach to development, undermining the conventional “top down” that has long been favoured by the MDBs. (Incidentally, it is also going to change the way we at the CSFI approach our own “Microfinance Banana Skins” series of reports, which is one reason we are so keen to hear what is going on). We are, therefore, delighted that Gunnar Camner, one of the authors of the recent GSMA “State of the Industry” report on mobile money, has agreed to explain the key findings of his study, and where mobile is headed next. He is the director for mobile money services at the GSMA, joining in 2012 after a career as a tech entrepreneur which took him from Sweden to Ghana.

To discuss the implications of the GSMA report further, and to cover any bits that Gunnar leaves out, we are delighted that two other experts have agreed to join the panel:

  • Harbir Singh Nat is the sector lead for digital ID and e-government at the IFC’s FinTech Investment Group. Prior to joining IFC, he, too, was a tech entrepreneur – as CEO of in Portugal and as founder of Aequator Capital.
  • Paul Makin is head of financial inclusion and mobile money at Consult Hyperion. As a consultant, he was co-creator of the M-Pesa system, and also led the TAP identity and payment project in Nigeria.

While some scepticism is always in order, the rapid development of mobile money across the world is a genuinely transformative event – and not one in which the UK (or other ‘advanced’ economies) leads. Indeed, we may be able to learn from the experience of the poorest countries in the poorest continents. If you (or a colleague) would like to join us for what I am sure will be a lively and provocative discussion, please let us know by calling 0207 621 1056 or emailing As usual, wine and sandwiches will be provided.

Many thanks

Andrew Hilton