The use of mobile phones, and the rise of mobile money back in 2008 has proven to be a sustainable manner to counter the traditional divide between poor and rich, as it enables people living in rural areas – and those without bank accounts – to obtain access to banking services in a single stroke. Mobile money has helped increase the availability of financial services in Tanzania, and according the IMF, financial inclusion rose by 42 per cent to a staggering 58 percent of the population between 2009 and 2013. Putting it differently, while only 19 percent of the Tanzanian population has access to a formal financial institution according to the World Bank, this percentage doubles to an estimated 39 percent when mobile money accounts are involved.
With four companies – Vodacom, AirTel, Tigo and ZanTel – providing mobile money facilities in Tanzania, the country’s mobile transactions are rapidly increasing to an estimated 50 percent of GDP. The financial inclusion – as a direct result of mobile money – opens the market for a large group of new costumers, which significantly boosts the economy Tanzania. Altogether the increasing involvement of low income classes through mobile money partially contributes to the admirable economic growth of six to seven percent each year.
However, it should be taken in consideration that the mobile penetration of Tanzania, and the increasing (financial) inclusion brings along new challenges for the Tanzanian government. Mobile telephony, social media and mobile banking have an inclusive function and provide people with a unique opportunity to feel that they are exerting a certain degree of influence on regional or national matters. In addition, the mobile access reduces the distance between people, both between villages and regions, even between countries. This enables people to organize themselves in large groups, which can exert pressure on the national government. When wealth is not distributed more equitably for instance, it can induce political instability or conflicts in the future, similar to the Arabic spring, as seen in Northern Africa. Mobile inclusion, both financially and socially, therefore brings along responsibilities which should be upheld. Otherwise, the mobile phone can turn into a destabilising factor.