Landscape Report: Mobile Money, Humanitarian Cash Transfers and Displaced Populations

Exploring the potential of cash-based interventions delivered via mobile wallet

Over the past decade, natural disasters and complex emergencies have led to a sharp increase in the need for humanitarian assistance. Displaced populations are predominantly located in developing countries, in urban areas, where mobile money services may be more widespread than banks or other formal financial institutions. GSMA data shows that at least 19 markets have more mobile money accounts than bank accounts and 37 countries have ten times as many registered mobile money agents as they have bank branches. At the same time, displaced people are increasingly connected, living in places covered by mobile networks and with mobile phone ownership rates that rival those of the world’s overall population.

Cash transfers are increasingly used as a modality for delivering aid. If deployed effectively, cash transfers via mobile money can deliver benefits to the humanitarian sector, including traceability, efficiency, timeliness and cost-effective delivery of aid. Furthermore, where beneficiaries have access to a mobile wallet, cash-based interventions (CBIs) can stimulate local economic growth and help build empowerment and resilience by giving users access to a broad suite of digital financial services, including savings and lending, utility bill payments, government service payments, and remittances.

However, mobile money will not always be a relevant mechanism for the disbursement of aid. The potential for mobile money in a humanitarian context depends on the relevant regulatory environment and reforms may be required to unlock the opportunity. The full potential of cash disbursement via mobile money can be realised where a supporting mobile money payments ecosystem exists.

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