The Economist writes about South Africa:
About half a million South Africans now use their mobile phones as a bank. Besides sending money to relatives and paying for goods, they can check balances, buy mobile airtime and settle utility bills. Traditional banks offer mobile banking as an added service to existing customers, most of whom are quite well off. But Wizzit, and to some extent First National Bank (FNB) and MTN Banking (a joint venture between Standard Bank and a mobile-phone network), are chasing another market: the 16m South Africans, over half of the adult population, with no bank account. Significantly, 30% of these people do have mobile phones. Wizzit hired and trained over 2,000 unemployed people, known as Wizzkids, to drum up business. It worked: eight out of ten Wizzit customers previously had no bank account and had never used an ATM.
If the transfer of money by mobile phonebetween countries as well as within themtakes off, it could have implications far beyond the salons of Soweto. In 2005, according to the United Nations, global migrants remitted $232 billion, of which up to 20% was lost on the way, mostly in bank charges or fraud. If cellular transfers could slash that figure, mobile banking would prove to be a good call.