5 min(s) read

Mobile money is revolutionizing the rapidly evolving digital landscape, especially in emerging markets. With more than a billion people in these regions owning cell phones but lacking access to traditional banking services, mobile money has successfully filled the void by offering financial services through mobile devices.

To achieve sustainable and profitable growth, establishing robust agent networks is paramount for the success and scalability of mobile money.

In this blog post, we will delve into the importance of agent networks and their pivotal role in scaling mobile money, drawing valuable insights from McKinsey’s article titled “Mobile Money: Getting to Scale in Emerging Markets.”

What is Mobile Money?

Mobile money has emerged as a transformative technology, allowing users to securely store, send, and receive money using mobile devices. In emerging markets, this innovation has revolutionized access to financial services by overcoming barriers like high transaction costs and vulnerability to theft in informal networks.

The research highlights three critical success factors that providers must implement after launching their deployment to address execution challenges effectively:

  1. Managing the Agent Network: Paying close attention to the agent network is crucial for ensuring smooth operations and widespread accessibility.
  2. Compelling Product Offering: Creating an attractive and user-friendly product offering can significantly influence adoption rates and customer satisfaction.
  3. Maintaining Corporate Commitment: Ensuring ongoing commitment from the corporate level helps sustain the initiative’s momentum and success.

Additionally, the exhibit presents four other success factors, which are particularly important when deciding whether to enter a new market and design a deployment:

The Role of Agent Networks

Agent networks are a pivotal component of mobile money operations, playing a vital role in facilitating cash-in and cash-out functions for customers. These agents represent the face of mobile money providers, building trust and credibility with users. McKinsey’s research identifies three critical success factors that mobile money deployments must implement, with the management of agent networks being of utmost importance.

Growing the Network with the Customer Base: Finding the right balance in agent network size is essential to ensure convenience for customers and profitability for agents. Careful consideration must be given to network growth, aligning it with the expansion of the customer base to maintain steady transaction volumes per agent. Too few agents may lead to concerns about system reliability, while an excessive number of agents can hinder liquidity management and compromise credibility.

Developing a Deep Understanding of the Agent’s Business Case: Providers must prioritize understanding the day-to-day operations and challenges faced by agents to ensure a viable path to profitability. Liquidity management is a significant cost for agents, and comprehending the issues they encounter in maintaining cash and e-float balances is crucial. Offering incentives, staggered commissions, and loans can enable agents to recover costs efficiently and generate revenue.

Investing in Maintaining Agent Quality: Agents are instrumental in maintaining customer trust in mobile money systems. Recruiting, training, and monitoring agents are essential to ensure they consistently maintain liquidity, effectively market mobile money, and educate customers about its use. Mobile-network operators (MNOs) must navigate the transition from airtime dealers to mobile-money agents carefully and address any discrepancies in incentives to avoid undermining their business.

In addition, agent network technology can enhance the stickiness of Mobile Money operators, optimizing marketing budgets through increased awareness and improved retention engagement.

Benefits of scaling Mobile Money with Agent Networks

Scalability and profitability are interconnected within the mobile money ecosystem. A well-managed agent network is instrumental in unlocking numerous key benefits for providers and customers alike.

Increased Accessibility: A robust agent network extends the reach of mobile money services, making them accessible to a broader population, including those in remote areas without access to traditional banking infrastructure.

Enhanced Trust and Customer Experience: Agents serve as the face of the mobile money provider, building trust and credibility with customers. A positive customer experience drives adoption and fosters long-term loyalty.

Liquidity Management: Well-managed agent networks help ensure sufficient liquidity to meet customer demand, especially during peak periods. Effective liquidity management enhances customer satisfaction and maintains the system’s integrity.

Reduced Operational Costs: Efficient agent networks optimize transaction costs and generate economies of scale, enabling mobile money providers to operate profitably.

By leveraging the power of a well-managed agent network, mobile money providers can achieve both scalability and profitability, transforming financial accessibility for a broader audience.

“Experts believe that the majority of customers need 10 to 15 minutes of face-to-face time with an agent or other mobile money representative in order to feel comfortable using the product.”

Source: Mckinsey

Pro tip

Prioritize agent education and training for mobile money success.
Agent networks are more than just a distribution channel in the world of mobile money; they are the provider’s face. Prioritizing agent education and training is critical for achieving successful scalability and profitability.

By investing in comprehensive training programs, mobile money providers can equip agents with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively market mobile money, educate customers, and address any technical challenges that may arise. Customers will not only trust and believe in well-trained sales representatives, but they will also drive adoption and long-term loyalty. Remember that a knowledgeable and confident agent is critical to the success of mobile money.


Agent networks play a pivotal role in scaling mobile money profitably in emerging markets. By prioritizing the management of agent networks, mobile money providers can overcome execution challenges and unlock the full potential of their services. Growing the network alongside the customer base, understanding the agent’s business case, and investing in agent quality are essential steps toward sustainable and profitable expansion. As mobile money continues to evolve and reshape the financial landscape, nurturing strong agent networks will be crucial for achieving success on a broader scale.

Unlock the potential of your business with our exclusive eBook, revealing innovative Alternative Delivery Channels that can elevate your growth and success!

Mobile Money: How customer onboarding can help you maximize service delivery to millions of unbanked