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CBK wants agents dealing in mobile money transfers regulated

CARTOON
By | December 2nd 2010

By James Anyanzwa

Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) is worried about the lack of oversight of the activities of agents dealing in mobile money transfer services.

CBK’s Governor Prof Njuguna Ndung’u said there is currently no regulation applying to the operations of these agents, instead there are only guidelines allowing banks to appoint agents for deposit taking.

Ndung’u said the key consideration to reviewing the existing regulatory framework will be based on the understanding of the relative risks posed by different agents in order to ensure a level playing field, and foster financial inclusion.

"For CBK, better regulation, as opposed to more regulation, means creating space for innovation but also being ready, with adequate instruments, to deal with the systems vulnerabilities," he said.

Ndung’u, however, underscored the role of agents in the money transfer system, saying without the widespread use of agents, it is unlikely mobile payments would be as pervasive as they are today. He said agents play two critical roles, which include opening electronic (e)-money accounts and exchanging e-money for cash and vice versa.

"CBK has so far focused on better regulation, knowing the legal hurdles when we transcend between banking regulations and payment regulations," he said.

Ndung’u was speaking during a Mobile Money Policy Forum in Nairobi yesterday. The two-day conference, dubbed ‘Partnership for Financial Inclusion in Africa’ was organised by the New York-based Citi Bank Group Inc. The gathering seeks to improve the social-economic standing of the African continent by promoting the use of mobile money transfer as an important tool of achieving financial inclusion.

"Africa has an opportunity to leapfrog other emerging economies," said Jay Collins, the bank’s head of public sector.

It is estimated that 2.5 billion people in the world have no access to the banking system, while one billion of them own mobile phones.

"Africa is now at a point of substantial change," said James Wolfensohn, former president of the World Bank Group and senior advisor for Citi Bank.

Some of the changes, he said, include a rising middle class, population explosion and challenges of job creation.

Africa achieved a 50 per cent mobile phone penetration this year. It is approximated that a 10 per cent increase in mobile penetration boosts annual gross domestic product (GDP) by 1.2 per cent.

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