The Retail Finance Distribution Network (ReFinD) research initiative, ISSER has issued a statement in response to the 30th of November press release by the Mobile Money Agents Association of Ghana. The press statement, titled “Fair Compensation to Mobile Money Agents” announced a decision to restrict withdrawals to a maximum of GHS1,000.00 per transaction for a month, with the possibility for further action if no favorable adjustment is made to their compensation by the Telcos.
ISSER is of the view that MoMo agents have become one of the most important drivers of financial inclusion in Ghana and this action has the potential to derail the gains made so far. There is therefore a need for dialogue to address the impasse.
“While we acknowledge momo agents’ concern for an improvement in compensation, we are of the view that a unilateral action has the potential to derail the gains made in financial inclusion and the development of a cash-lite economy,” says Prof. Peter Quartey, Director of ISSER and Executive Director of ReFinD.
Under the current compensation structure, a flat fee of GHS10.00 is deducted from transactions of GHS1000.00 and above. The GHS10.00 is then shared between the agent (40%) and the MoMo provider (60%). Thus, a transaction of GHS5000 will earn the MoMo agent a commission of GHS 4 under the old model. With this new action by the agents, a withdrawal of GHS 5000 will earn the agents GHS 20 since the customer has to make 5 withdrawals of GHS 1,000 each to receive the desired GHS 5,000. However, this will cost the customer GHS 50, an increase of GHS 40 from the old rates.
The statement by ISSER makes the following recommendations, among other key issues:
- Regulatory guidance on market dominance and competition in the agent network industry.
Increasingly, the delivery of financial services by MoMo agents is becoming a critical social and economic utility service, with a direct impact on the livelihood of consumers and, to some extent, the stability of the country’s financial system.
While an industry group (through the unionization of the regional associations into one national entity) can be beneficial to capacity development, negotiations, and peer management, the current industrial action highlights the potential for undue market power by a sole entity. ISSER calls on relevant regulators with oversight on the agent network industry and competition to be informed by this action to take steps to develop further guidance on issues around market dominance and competition within the agent network industry.
- Evidence-based dialogue on improving incentive for MoMo agents
We acknowledge that the regulator does not have a role to play in the negotiation of business between MoMo providers and their agents. However, given the scale and extensive potential of the operation of agents on the livelihoods and welfare of consumers, ISSER calls on the regulator to intervene as a referee to bring the two parties to the negotiating table.
We encourage all parties to be guided and informed by evidence in negotiations to ensure equity and fairness in the structuring of compensation and value sharing between MoMo providers and their agents. Negotiated outcomes should aim to keep agents in business without jeopardizing gains made in financial inclusion. Parties should take into consideration the cost of operation for agents, the pricing mechanisms of the providers and agents, and the profitability and security of agents among others. Stakeholders could also consider the compensation structure across peer markets within Africa and Asia to serve as benchmarks. To this end, ISSER, through its Retail Finance Distribution (ReFinD) research initiative, is committed to serving as a research partner to support the process.
In conclusion, ISSER acknowledges the concern of MoMo agents for an improvement in compensation. However, we wish to caution that the current unilateral action can be detrimental to gains made in financial inclusion and the transition to a cash-lite economy. In the medium to long term, the sharp increase in the cost of withdrawal will drive customers away and inadvertently reduce the profitability of agents. We call on all stakeholders to resort to evidence-based dialogue for a fair compensation model that will not jeopardize gains made in financial inclusion.
Note to editors
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Retail Finance Distribution (ReFinD) Research Initiative
Phone: +233 (0)244 766 492
ReFinD is a sub-grants-awarding research initiative that aims to support interventions that will effectively expand the reach and efficiency of agent network operations through public policy and commercial solutions that can plausibly be scaled.
It is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER), at the University of Ghana, in collaboration with international partners spanning Sub-Sahara Africa, South East Asia, and South Asia.