Ethnographic Study on Mobile Money in Africa

This project centres around a comparative ethnographic study into the usage, perceptions and attitudes towards mobile money in four countries.

It is part of a larger-scale project run by an ‘IFC-MasterCard Foundation Partnership’ in which they aim to accelerate delivery of financial services in Sub-Saharan Africa through the significant scaling up of eight of IFC’s strongest microfinance partners in Africa. More specifically, they want to understand what role Microfinance Institutions and Mobile Network Operators can play in the digital finance eco-system and the business case for mobile money channels in MFIs.

Within this, the “Partnership” is interested in documenting the evolution of  Mobile Financial Services from a customer perspective using qualitative methods to better understand the perceptions, attitudes and usages of customers in Africa. The result of this research will help IFC to design more targeted and successful m-banking pilots with MFIs, as well as share lessons learned with the broader development community on what works and what does not, as well as what the costs and benefits of mobile channels are for its users.

The proposed project, to be carried out by the ASC and its partners, is an innovative attempt to bring together anthropologists, young (African) research talent and key players in the industry.

Little critical research has been done on the developmental approach to the expansion of financial services for the poor. A lot of past studies have been conducted by groups that stand to directly benefit from positive assumptions, an issue which this project aims to address.

The approach is explicitly an ethnographic one in which case studies will be carried out in Congo DRC (Kinshasa & Lubumbashi), Cameroon (Bamenda & Baaba), Zambia (Kitwe, Lusaka & Southern Province, in cooperation with the Southern African Institute for Policy and Research SAIPAR) and Senegal (Dakar & Louga, in cooperation with the Laboratoire de Recherche sur les Transformations Economiques et Sociales (LARTES-IFAN). In each country a team has been set-up who will be responsible for carrying out fieldwork and delivering output. In this sense, the project is very much a mix between academic research and consultancy. 

For more information please contact Inge Butter ( 

Research project
2015 to 2017

Senior researchers

PhD affiliates

External affiliates

Senegal (LARTES-IFAN): Prof. Abdou Salam Fall (Principal investigator/Team leader), Moustapha Seye (Assistant co-ordinator), Khadidiatou Diagne, Mame Diarra Boussou Ndiaye
Zambia (SAIPAR): Dr. Marja Hinfelaar (Team leader), Caesar Cheelo, Edna Kabala-Litana
Congo DRC: Dr. Sylvie Ayimpang (Team leader), Dr. Olivier Kahola Tabu
Cameroon: Dr. Walter Gam Nkwi (Team leader), Emmanuel Ngang


Mobile money, financial inclusion, unbanked, technology, mobility, connectivity, economic growth, development, bottom of the pyramid, Microfinance Institutions (MFIs), Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Mobile Financial Services (MFS)

Funding and cooperation


International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group) & MasterCard Foundation.