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How Mobile Payments will be affected by Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted millions of people across the globe and has forced many of us to relook at the way in which we do things, from social gatherings, greetings, how we work, how we shop and ultimately how we live.

With many countries issuing national lockdowns and regulations, consumers and businesses alike have had to rethink how they shop and conduct business. One of the many trends that have come out of adapting to the “new normal”, is the increase in mobile and contactless payments.

This trend has created an opportunity for Telcos to expand on current service offerings and dive into the world of mobile payments.

The impact of Covid-19 on the use of paper and plastic money  

For many years,  paper money, coins and plastic money, in the form of credit and debit cards, have been used as the primary source of payment methods. In more recent years, through digital transformation, there has been a gradual shift towards mobile and contactless payments. This is largely due to the fact that paper money and coins are more expensive to manage, in terms of counting and security, they are easy theft targets, not easily traceable and the process of making payments is a lot slower. In the era of Covid-19, the popularity of mobile and contactless payment methods has increased exponentially. But why has this happened?

The result of the lockdowns around the world had many people turning to their mobile phones to buy essential items, ordering and paying for items online and having essentials delivered directly to their door without any contact. Recent data coming out of the UK shows that two-thirds of all Mastercard transactions are now contactless and 43% of people have reported using contactless more often since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Another reason for the surge in mobile payment use is due to the concern about how the virus is spread and the exchange of metal coins and paper money between multiple people a day would increase the risk of infection. Mobile payments are now generally viewed as being a much safer option than handling money and credit or debit cards as it limits the amount of contact during the payment process.

Mobile payment usage across the globe

Covid-19 has highlighted the benefits of mobile technology, especially mobile payments, but this is a trend that has been on the up in recent years. It is no secret that consumers across the globe are using their mobile phones more and more. Innovative apps and technology have meant that you can run your entire life on your mobile phone. Consumers love the convenience of on-demand, search-driven, and instantly fulfilled services that mobile services and mobile payments offer.

According to research conducted, in just two years mobile transactions have grown from just 8% to over 18%.  Research has also estimated that in 2020, for the first time, more than 1 billion people worldwide will use a mobile payment app to pay in-store at least every six months. In 2023, it is estimated that there will be 1.31 billion proximity mobile payment transaction users worldwide, up from 950 million users in 2019.

For many developing countries mobile payments and mobile money have proven to be an invaluable tool for fostering resilience by facilitating safe and efficient money transfer and payments services. Mobile money and mobile wallet solutions ensure that workers are able to receive wages, that the humanitarian sector is able to disburse humanitarian assistance and that the agricultural sector is able to keep value chains open.

According to the GSMA, the use of mobile payments in this sector could limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus by encouraging digital payments and ease the cost of living burden on citizens who use digital payments. The result of this has seen Mobile Money providers providing total or partial fee waivers on person-to-person (P2P) transactions. Some operators have extended fee waivers to all transaction bands (e.g. Airtel Africa), others have extended fee waivers to certain transaction types such as utility bill payments (e.g. Orange Senegal). This further encourages this sector to use these mobile payment options. 

Mobile payments are becoming a necessary part of everyday life and are fast becoming the way of the future. They are convenient and offer financial inclusion for many. With a mobile phone, you have access to a world of opportunity at the click of a button.

Mobile payments and the opportunity for Telcos

From the above, there is no doubt that the use of mobile commerce is something that will continue to increase over the next few years. According to research carried out by ACI Worldwide and Red Dawn Consulting, only 3% of all mobile payment spend is billed by Telcos. When looking at the future of mobile commerce and payments, this number is incredibly low. This provides Telcos with an opportunity to tap into this market and add value to their customer, which in turn will increase revenue.

For Telcos to gain more of a share of mobile payments, they need to add value to the payment process. Telcos have the opportunity to enhance the digital marketplace because they have the technology, infrastructure and subscriber base advantage. In order to do this effectively, Telcos need to optimise customer convenience and trust. This can be done by enhancing seamless checkout, ensuring advanced security, implementing loyalty schemes and by offering a personalised interface to customers. For Telcos to become successful in the mobile payment space, they need to:

  • Adapt to consumers interests
  • Support consumers to finalise payments
  • Remove consumer doubts about payment safety
  • Reward customer trust in the payment process

For this to be effective, it is essential to deliver on frictionless, real-time payments to consumers. This can only be done by building strategic relationships with merchants, consumers and other technology platforms. Through these strategic relationships as well as the expansion in the number of devices and applications, Telcos can further enhance the world of mobile commerce.

Adapt IT has a range of customisable mobile payment solutions. These include the Mobile Money and Mobile Wallet solutions which can be seamlessly implemented and then expanded as the need arises. These solutions enable Telco operators to begin complying with new regulations while accessing new revenue streams, to upsell on existing services, diversify offerings, and modernise payment models. These solutions offer everything you need to succeed in the digital financial marketplace and mobile payment industry.

mobile payments


There is no doubt that the effects of Covid-19 have impacted and sped up the use of mobile and contactless payments. Mobile payment methods have proved to be safer, more convenient and have assisted consumers in getting essentials during the lockdown. Over the next few years, we can expect mobile payments to increase exponentially, providing Telcos with an opportunity to think outside of the box and tap into this growing trend. With the technology, infrastructure, and customer base, Telcos are in the perfect position to add value to the growing mobile commerce industry.  

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