Symposium to tackle social impact of mobile money

Institute for African Development hosts gathering of experts April 19-22


In much of Africa, cell phones are used for what used to be cash transactions.  

Across Africa, people at nearly every income level are using their mobile devices to transfer money, pay bills, access their bank accounts, and receive payments and wages. What does this mean for the continent’s social and economic development?

That will be the focus of a symposium called “Mobile Money, Financial Inclusion, and Development in Africa” hosted by Cornell’s Institute for African Development (IAD) in collaboration with the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD) on April 19, 21, and 22. The symposium is free and open to the public.

Participants from a variety of disciplines will examine a wide range of issues around financial inclusion, including global and local trends and areas of tension.

Andrew Mude (Ph.D. 2006), principal economist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), will deliver the keynote address on the power of mobile technologies to transform rural agricultural development in Africa.

Explosive growth brings questions

Governments and development organizations are promoting mobile money as a tool for increasing financial inclusion. The numbers seem to bear them out.

According to London-based GSMA, there were 84 million active mobile money accounts in Africa as of December 2015. MarketsandMarkets predicts that the entire African mobile money market is set to grow more than five-fold – from $2.73 billion in 2015 to $14.27 billion – by 2020. Growth is particularly strong among unbanked Africans, especially in rural areas where banking facilities are few.

Still, a major question is whether this explosive growth is in fact improving the lives and livelihoods of resource-poor households and businesses.

Speakers at the symposium will come from the Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT/CGIAR); CGAP/World Bank; Better Than Cash Alliance, United Nations Capital Development Fund; German Development Institute; University of London; Rutgers University; American University; ACCION; Columbia University; Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; InterMedia; World Vision; Virginia Commonwealth University; University of California, Berkeley; Central Connecticut State University; Tufts University; and Cornell.

The symposium begins on Wednesday, April 19, at 12:20 p.m. in Warren 401 with a presentation by Dr. Bill Maurer, director of the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion and Dean of the School of Social Sciences at the University of California at Irvine. Events will resume on Friday, April 21 at 2 p.m. in Stocking Hall’s PepsiCo Auditorium and run through Saturday, April 22 at 5 p.m.

For more information and a full schedule of sessions, contact Jackie Sayegh at jsb25@cornell.edu or 607-255-6849 or visit https://iad.einaudi.cornell.edu/.

“Mobile Money, Financial Inclusion, and Development in Africa” is cosponsored by the Emerging Markets Program at the Dyson School of Agricultural Economics and Management; Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion (IMTFI); Emerging Markets Institute, Johnson Graduate School of Management; International Programs, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (IP-CALS) and, the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.