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In the News: Mobile Phone Banking and Opportunity Malawi

By Opportunity International

The Financial Times has just published a story online and in print in their World Food supplement about the effects of mobile phone technology on smallholder farmers in Africa. The article, “Mobile technology: Phones prove useful tools for small farmers,” (written by Sarah Murray; published online Oct. 14, 2010, in print Oct. 15, 2010) featured insight from Opportunity Malawi CEO Aleksandr-Alain Kalanda along with other scholars and experts in microfinance and global development.

Cell phone banking and other technological innovations are changing the way people access microfinance innovations in the developing world.

Key points from the article:

  • Mobiles can help smallholder farmers in Africa access information they need in order to improve their productivity, such as finding out more about markets they sell into. “We’ve seen clear evidence of market prices being disseminated through cell phones, and that’s leading to increased trade and lower waste,” says Dean Karlan, president and founder of Innovations for Poverty Action and professor of economics at Yale University.
  • The mobile is also providing farmers with basic financial services by allowing them to make cash transfers using their phones.
  • Opportunity Malawi CEO Kalanda explains that he believes the next step involves increasing the use of solar chargers, with neighbors or farmers working together in cooperatives, sharing the cost of the technology.
  • While solar chargers may represent an additional investment for farmers, it is likely that, given the benefits of mobile phones for their businesses, they will want to shoulder the cost.

Mobile phone facts from the article:

  • Though less than 30% of roads are paved in Africa and there is uneven access to electricity, mobile phone ownership has increased
  • There are 10 times more mobile phones on the  continent than there are land lines
  • Mobile phone subscriptions rose by 49% between 2002-2007 (while they rose only 17% in Europe during that time)

The Financial Times article emphasizes what microfinance institutions and experts already know: that mobile phones can improve the lives and financial success of Africa’s smallholder farmers, particularly those living in remote areas, helping them to access information and basic financial services through mobile technologyClick here to read the supplement at ft.com.

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