Financial Inclusion

A Peer-to-peer Marketplace for Mobile Money Agents

A simple and secure way for agents to buy and sell the float they need to do business.

In an age where more than 90% of the global population owns a mobile phone, many essential services, from banking to healthcare, now take place online and on the move. Operating within this increasingly digital ecosystem, mobile money agents are now essential for billions of people around the world who aren’t tied to brick and mortar financial institutions. 

These agents serve as liaisons between people in the community and their banks or mobile money services. Like human ATMs’, the agents make it possible for customers to do cash-in/cash-out transactions, make transfers and payments, and get access to their money digitally or physically (in cash). But this system doesn’t always work as seamlessly as intended. 

With such high demand, mobile money agents—especially in rural areas—routinely run out of available cash, or float. This is especially true in parts of Kenya, where agents have to close their shops and travel to the bank when they need more float or digital liquidity—a costly process during which they can lose out on serving up to 20% of their customers.

Money Moves

With the intention of understanding these barriers and helping address them, we worked with Tanda, a Kenya-based financial services start-up, to develop solutions with mobile money agents. Together, we spoke with agents in Nairobi and Nakuru, Kenya to understand the issues they face with liquidity management—specifically how they rebalance their cash and e‑money. We heard from agents that they are forced to travel to urban centers far away to manage float—which is a time and business cost—and then pay costly commissions and fees. With this in mind, we sought to design a peer-to-peer solution for mobile money agents to easily rebalance float (both cash and e‑money) when they need it most.

We started by developing a range of solutions, getting feedback from agents, and analyzing their liquidity management behaviors—creating a pricing-sensitivity analysis for fees and commissions that would attract, benefit, and sustain their business. After rounds of iteration, we ultimately designed a new digital tool called Rebalance, a peer-to-peer float rebalancing marketplace, and tested it live with 32 agents in Kenya. 

In January 2022, after months of testing, Tanda launched Rebalance and made it available to agents in the region. Rebalance, which operates on a mobile phone app, is designed to enable users to conveniently and securely buy and sell float between one another when they need it, solving for the difficulty of traveling far to transact.

To use the app, agents sign on, set up their account, and simply select the amount and type of float they need. Super-agents—those who have activated the Selling Mode’ on the app—then receive notifications from nearby agents who have made requests. Once confirmed—and after a secure, code-based verification system—a nearby cash runner delivers the sold or exchanged float between the buyer to fulfill the transaction. 

In addition to delivering a digital experience that builds users’ sense of confidence, security, and safety in using the platform, we also wanted to solve for the volatility of liquidity that agents face. As a result, the Rebalance app allows users to easily toggle between buying or selling depending on the reality of their day-to-day needs.

A float seller's transaction journey on the Rebalance app.

Going Global

Since its launch, Rebalance now has more than 2000 super-agents who sell up to 8 million KES in float per month. In 2023, Tanda plans to expand to 60,000 super-agents, increasing access to agents in more regions. Additionally, through Last Mile Moneys CICO Innovation Collective, organizations in Nigeria (Gigmile), Ghana (Waynbo), and India (FIA) have studied the float marketplace we built in Kenya and adapted it to their own social and financial ecosystems. We’re excited to see these solutions reach more people and close gaps in more places.

And, for now, we’re pleased to see that instead of traveling long distances and losing customers, agents now act as each other’s support system—managing float among themselves and making a commission of this kindness when they are feeling flush.

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