Sierra Leone - Key Findings from the Scoping Report
With a population of 5 million, there are 2.73 million cell phone subscribers in Sierra Leone. Bank penetration stands at 10 percent. There are five major commercial banks, none of which had adopted mobile financial services at the time of this scoping study.
Splash, the oldest mobile money service provider, has been in the market since 2009, but uptake has not been as significant as originally hoped. Airtel recently launched its Airtel money product, and this will hopefully stir up some competition and increase awareness in the market. There is also currently a push by banks to establish partnerships with these two service providers for the banks to increase their reach and customer base with cheaper and more accessible savings and transaction products.
Considering the insecurity and high cost of moving cash, there is an ideal value proposition for users to take up and use mobile money services. However, mobile money infrastructure is not well established and this complicates the ability of service providers to deploy. The country’s financial sector development plan 2009 recognizes the need to establish a competitive commercial banking system and to increase access to finance through the adoption of legislative and regulatory reform including those for mobile financial services.
A suitable intervention in this market would involve supporting the regulator in developing mobile money regulations and organizing knowledge sharing events to raise awareness on various aspects of the mobile money industry. This can be complemented with client level interventions that help service providers adopt best practice models to scale up operations.