Morocco Looks for Mobile Payments Market Expansion

November 16, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

We hear a lot about the mobile payments market in the Asia-Pacific region. We also hear quite a bit about it in the North American market (especially the US), as well as Europe. There’s even plenty of stirring about the African market, though the North African market is a bit less represented. That’s about to change, though, as word arrived about Morocco’s central bank’s projection of its mobile payments business through 2023, and it expects business to be brisk.

The word from the central bank is that it’s expecting to see 50 billion dirhams—about $5.246 billion US as of this writing—in mobile payments business a year by 2023. In fact, it’s even got a plan to get in on that market itself, and is set to release its own mobile payments service by the end of the month.

With this new service in place, the bank notes, it will help reduce the use of cash involved in payments and “promote financial inclusion,” since there is a substantial number of unbanked in the country that also have mobile phones. Indeed, Morocco’s smartphone penetration rate is actually 130 percent. By contrast, just 56 percent of Moroccans had a bank account at the start of 2018.

The central bank’s service, known unremarkably as m-Wallet (is that “m” for “mobile” or “Morocco”?) will offer a fairly standard range of services, including bill payment, cash transfers, and online shopping all from a mobile phone interface, according to reports.

The problem in a nutshell is fairly simple. The m-Wallet system as we know it doesn’t seem to offer much of anything beyond what several other pieces of software already do and have done for years. With the bank expecting some pretty brisk business, surely it has to do more than offer the minimum to get users interested? It’s got to break people out of the inertia of cash and credit cards, which are already doing well in the region, so what is the competitive edge of the m-Wallet system?

There are still quite a few gray areas, and hopefully the central bank will clear some of this up before the 2023 figures start hitting. Still, this proves more than anything that mobile payments are a global market and really only getting started.