Mobile financial services: unnoticed vulnerability issues

Dr Mesfin Fikre Woldmariam, Addis Ababa University

In my presentation, I will report on the findings of a study of some of the problems surrounding mobile financial services in Africa. Following the deployment of mobile financial services, much has been said and written about their security as well as their vulnerabilities. A failure to identify and understand these vulnerabilities and introduce the necessary mitigating mechanisms have deterred individuals from a massive uptake of the service. To gain a better understanding of the situation, mobile money service users, bank managers, and customer service managers were interviewed. Problems identified in the course of this study include the inability to reverse transactions, a lack of source documents, unsecured passwords in case customers lose their phones, the fat that robbers can force travellers to transfer money to them, language barriers, and a lack of consumer protection with regard to transferring funds to the wrong beneficiaries.

This is a qualitative study, comprising both primary and secondary research. It was guided by a review of academic papers, industry white papers, and document analysis (particularly the analysis of procedural and legal documents related to mobile based financial transaction). This was complemented by primary data collected from financial institutions in the form of interviews. The findings can help financial institutions to design and implement appropriate consumer protection policies as well as technical, legal, and procedural mechanisms for addressing these hitherto unnoticed issues.

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