As unusual as it may sound, many African countries have already replaced cash with phone payments for most regular day-to-day interactions. The same is also true in China, where tech giants AliExpress and WeChat operate rival services, which, when combined, made up over 83 per cent of all payments made in the year 2018. The trend continues to grow year on year, with over 92 per cent of payments made in China’s first-tier cities being made by Wechat Pay or Alipay the same year.
So why have we not seen the same thing happen in the United States and Great Britain? The prevalence of credit and debit cards in most Western countries has meant there hasn’t been the same rush to find a convenient replacement for cash like there was in China and much of Africa. In those countries, vast sections of the population do not have access to banking facilities the same way people in Western countries usually do.
Phone payments have flourished In places where credit/debit cards are unlikely to be accepted, or cash has suffered horrific inflation as it has in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, and Kenya. The means to make a payment using nothing more than your phone has been a lifeline for millions of people in these countries.
Some of these people previously had no choice but to travel for hours to find the nearest ATM, or even spend more than a day travelling by bus just to hand over some of the cash they had earned from working in the city to family and friends who still lived in the countryside.