HomeSending MoneyMobile Payment Adoption: A Key to Increased Financial Inclusion?

Mobile Payment Adoption: A Key to Increased Financial Inclusion?

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked economic havoc across the globe, plunging every advanced nation into a recession and exacerbating income inequality. But there is another story to be told about the pandemic’s financial impact - and it is far more optimistic.

Money Transfer Comparison
Fill in the form and we’ll find you the best rates.
United Kingdom
Top findings: - Mobile payment adoption has increased dramatically since 2020, with the fastest growth seen in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. By 2025, these regions will have seen 311%, 166% and 147% growth in mobile wallet usage respectively. - China leads the way in mobile payment adoption, with 91.1% of citizens expected to use mobile wallets by 2025. - The adoption of smartphone payment methods has given a boost to financial inclusion, enabling many people who do not have access to traditional banking or credit cards to join the formal financial system. has analysed a range of data on global mobile payment adoption, revealing that COVID-19 may in fact have led to an increase in financial inclusion.

Today, two-thirds of adults worldwide are capable of either making or receiving digital payments. And perhaps most strikingly, the share of those users living in developing economies has grown an astonishing 22% in the wake of COVID-19.

Why did COVID-19 increase mobile payments?

The pandemic created clear incentives for both merchants and consumers to adopt digital payment methods. Physical money carried the risk of contagion, leading to a 16% decrease in cash usage and a vast increase in merchant adoption of mobile payment systems.

Simultaneously, there was an explosion in e-commerce, with online sales making up 19% of global retail sales in 2020. This further encouraged consumers to adopt digital payment methods, and 45% of worldwide e-commerce purchases were being made using a digital wallet by the end of 2020.

In developing nations, the pandemic also led governments to accelerate financial digitisation. In 2020, Ghana’s central bank introduced a universal QR code to make mobile payments easier. And several African governments waived fees that had previously made digital payments less appealing for consumers.

Such policy decisions are likely key drivers behind the increase in financial inclusion that mobile payment adoption has facilitated.

What is financial inclusion, and why does it matter?

Financial Inclusion refers to the equality of access to financial services, such as banking, loans or insurance products. Historically, these services have been more readily available to specific groups - such as more economically developed nations - creating a significant advantage to individuals in those groups.

As financial inclusion improves, we see a greater equality of opportunity, with underprivileged groups gaining autonomy, privacy and an increased capacity to generate wealth.

How does mobile payment adoption affect this?

There are two clear ways an increase in mobile transactions helps improve financial inclusion:

1. Access to financial infrastructure

A successful mobile payment requires multiple parties to have access to a robust financial infrastructure: the payer must have access to some form of bank or mobile money provider, while the payee must have the means to process digital payments.

Increased mobile payment adoption therefore shows that more people in developing countries are using the formal financial system. In 2011, just 51% of the global population had access to a bank account. But today 76% have either a bank account or a mobile money provider.

In Nigeria, for example, the majority of citizens still do not have access to a bank account, but 60% of internet users make digital payments - enabling them to sidestep that problem by using a mobile wallet instead. In Kenya, this figure is 84%.

The pandemic has accelerated these trends. Over 40% of people in low and middle income economies who have made a digital payment did so for the first time during COVID-19. And in Brazil, 16 million people were enfranchised into the financial system during the pandemic because of the widespread adoption of digital payment methods.

2. A level playing field for innovation

The data suggests that much of the innovation in the field of mobile payments technology is coming from lower income countries. The United States adopted credit and debit cards much faster than other nations, but rates of mobile payment adoption adoption in the US are nearly 50% lower than those in countries like China and Kenya.

In these countries, many consumers will still not have a debit or credit card - but they are more likely to have a mobile wallet. Rather than relying on larger countries’ infrastructure, digital payments have enabled countries in Eastern Asia and Africa to take a lead on innovation - and give their economies a boost in the process.

“As this data shows, mobile payment is very much the future. Consumers all over the world are benefiting from the increased convenience and control paying with their phone offers.” “The most interesting aspect, however, is the way this revolution is empowering less developed economies. The level of innovation and growth likely to come from increased financial inclusion cannot be overstated - and I for one am excited to see where that innovation might lead us.”
Jonathan Merry, CEO of

Related Content


What are mobile payments?
When did mobile payments start?
Who are the largest adopters of mobile payment methods?
Yasmin Purnell
Yasmin Purnell
Yasmin Purnell is a Content Writer and Editor for Yasmin has a wealth of experience writing across a range of topics within the personal finance, student, and business niche. Yasmin joined the team with the one main mission to provide accessible financial, career and business information and advice for all.