Microsoft founder Bill Gates has agreed to help fund a massive rollout of projects enabling poor mobile phone users to transfer money using their handsets targeting to reach 20 million additional unbanked people with the service by 2012.
The GSM Association, which represents 750 mobile phone networks in the world, said a grant of $12.5 million (Dh45.91m) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would help fund 20 initiatives in Asia, Africa and South America.
The GSMA estimates that the money transfer market on mobile phones could represent $5bn by 2012.
Money transfer via mobile phone is seen as a potential area of growth for operators in developing countries, where millions are without access to the banking system.
"There's 1.7 billion people in the emerging markets who don't have a bank account but do have a mobile phone, so they could use their mobile phone to conduct financial transactions," explained Michael O'Hara, Marketing Director for the GSMA. "The target is to reach 20 million additional unbanked people with the service by 2012."
About 12 mobile phone banking programmes have been launched in the past few years, with 10 million users benefiting so far. The Gates Foundation said the grant was part of its programme to extend financial services to the poor.