Navigating the mobile money landscape: Unraveling the roles of banks, fintechs and telcos


Over the last 15 years, one of the major developments that has revolutionized and disrupted the entire financial sector in Ghana is the emergence of Mobile Money Services (MoMo).

Though MTN launched its Mobile Financial Services (MFS) in 2009, many Ghanaians were yet to warm up to it as a safe mode of payment in 2012.

Amazingly, there were a lot of skeptics and many industry watchers had different views as to the operationalization and safety of the service, notwithstanding the success story in East Africa.

Many experts were of the view that Telcos were either in competition or taking over commercial banking in Ghana. No wonder it took the issuance of mobile money guidelines by the Central Bank of Ghana in July 2015 to support industry players.

The development of Mobile money in Ghana has been very remarkable, showing astronomical growth year on year. Registered mobile money accounts across the three major Telcos have – for the first time, outstripped the country’s total population; a development that signifies future growth in the mobile money space.

In the dynamic realm of mobile money, a triumvirate of key players — banks, fintechs, and telecommunications companies (telcos) — collaborates to shape the digital financial landscape. Each entity contributes unique strengths, fostering a synergistic ecosystem that propels the evolution of mobile money services in Ghana.

In this article, I will try to give some perspective on the roles Commercial Banks, the Financial Technology (Fintech) companies and the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) play in delivering mobile money services to individuals and corporate organizations.

Banks: The Pillars of Security and Regulation

Following the growing awareness in the mobile money space, rules for E-Money Issuers in Ghana (EMI guidelines) and Agent’s guidelines were published in July 2015 to cover financial institutions regulated under Act 673 as well as other institutions that want to issue e-money.

These Guidelines were being issued as part of Bank of Ghana’s broader strategy to create an enabling regulatory environment for convenient, efficient, and safe retail payment and funds transfer mechanisms. It also aimed to promote the availability and acceptance of electronic money as a retail payment medium with the potential to increase financial inclusion.

They also sought to specify the necessary safeguards and controls to mitigate the risks associated with e-money business and to ensure consumer protection.

The key highpoints of the EMI Guidelines are as follows: The e-money float of every e-money issuer shall be held in trust for the e-money issued. Thus, technically, only special deposit taking institution (commercial banks) have the mandate to keep the floats on trust accounts and not the Telcos. The floats shall also not be comingled at any time with the funds of any natural or legal person other than the e-money holders on whose behalf the funds are held; and be held in either individual or pooled accounts with one or more universal banks in Ghana.


The Commercial Banks play two crucial roles within the mobile money industry; the amazing part is when a bank decides to be a partner bank. With a partner bank status, the bank is mandated by the mobile network operator to hold a Trust account for floats. A bank may also decide to be an agency bank which basically involves the subscriber registration, cash in and cash out services, bank-to-wallet, wallet-to-bank etc. For example, MTN Mobile Financial services currently has 17 partner banks. Some of the banks include Standard Chartered, Barclays Bank, Ecobank, Fidelity Bank, Cal Bank etc.

With this backdrop, banks are serving as the bedrock of the mobile money ecosystem, providing the regulatory framework and financial infrastructure essential for a secure and compliant environment. They ensure that transactions adhere to stringent regulatory standards, fostering trust among users. Banks often act as custodians, safeguarding funds and guaranteeing the integrity of financial operations. Their involvement brings stability and credibility to the mobile money ecosystem.

FinTech: Innovation at the Forefront

As of June 2022, the Bank of Ghana had granted licenses to 46 Fintech companies, who offer a range of digital financial services to a population of 32 million. Notable fintechs in Ghana include Emergent Payment, IT Consortium, e-Transact, Expresspay, Zee Pay, PaySwitch etc.

Fintech companies inject innovation into the mobile money landscape. With nimble, user-centric approaches, they develop intuitive mobile applications and services that simplify financial transactions. From digital wallets to peer-to-peer payment platforms, fintechs create solutions that resonate with the evolving needs of consumers. Their agility allows for rapid adaptation to technological advancements, making them instrumental in driving the evolution of mobile money services as compared to traditional commercial banks. Fintechs serve as aggregators between the banks and the Telcos. For example, instead of a bank connecting directly to MTN, Vodafone and AirtelTigo, the Bank will rather prefer to connect to the Fintechs who have speed to market and have already connected to the Telcos. The direct integrations offer the banks the opportunity to offer mobile money services at a cheaper cost to its customers, but this requires strong risk and compliance controls to be in place.

Telcos: Bridging Connectivity and Accessibility

Telcos, leveraging their extensive networks, play a pivotal role in ensuring the widespread accessibility of mobile money services. Through mobile phones, they connect users to financial platforms, transcending geographical barriers. Telcos facilitate seamless transactions, acting as the gateway between users and financial services. Their role in expanding the reach of mobile money contributes significantly to financial inclusion, especially in regions with limited traditional banking infrastructure.


The convergence of banks, fintechs, and telcos forms a collaborative ecosystem where each entity’s strengths compensate for the other’s limitations. Banks provide security and regulatory stability, fintechs drive innovation, and telcos ensure accessibility. Together, they create a robust framework that promotes financial inclusion, empowers users, and drives the global transition toward a cashless society. The success of the mobile money ecosystem hinges on the harmonious collaboration of banks, fintechs, and telcos. As technology advances and user expectations evolve, these key players must continue to adapt, innovate, and collaborate to shape a resilient and inclusive digital financial landscape.

The astronomical growth in mobile financials services reaffirms that indeed mobile money has come to stay, and all the indicators are likely to double in next few years.

It’s the duty of the commercial banks to strengthen their compliance, controls, customer due diligence (CDD) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) units to ensure that risks are well mitigated and reduced to the minimum.

Telcos must strengthen their know your customer (KYC) processes to help curtail the increasing trend of mobile money related fraud in the industry and increase transactional limits and reduce transaction cost. The 3 key stakeholders in the mobile money space should work together to provide incentives to both subscribers and merchants to boost usage e.g., tariff rebates etc.

The writer is a banker at Ecobank Ghana PLC with a focus on but not limited to working with SMEs and Corporates in Ghana on their payment service needs.

Leave a Reply