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The September edition of The Economist carried the following story which I think is fascinating to read.
Mobile phones have transformed lives in the poor world. Mobile money could have just as big an impact
ONCE the toys of rich yuppies, mobile phones have evolved in a few short years to become tools of economic empowerment for the world’s poorest people.
These phones compensate for inadequate infrastructures, such as bad roads and slow postal services, allowing information to move more freely, making markets more efficient and unleashing entrepreneurship. All this has a direct impact on economic growth: an extra ten phones per 100 people in a typical developing country boosts GDP growth by 0.8 percentage points, according to the World Bank.
More than 4 billion handsets are now in use worldwide, three-quarters of them in the developing world (see our special report). Even in Africa, four in ten people now have a mobile phone.
With such phones now so commonplace, a new opportunity beckons mobile money, which allows cash to travel as quickly as a text message.
Across the developing world, corner shops are where people buy vouchers to top up their calling credit. Mobile-money services allow these small retailers to act rather like bank branches. They can take your cash, and (by sending a special kind of text message) credit it to your mobile-money account. You can then transfer money (again, via text message) to other registered users, who can withdraw it by visiting their own local corner shops.
You can even send money to people who are not registered users; they receive a text message with a code that can be redeemed for cash.