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There is a common perception regarding a nagging problem with mobile wallets – that cash is still King and so wallets just seem to be conduit pipes, not really holders of digital stored value.

Two questions from 1st principles help our approach to this seeming problem.
– What transactional purpose does cash presently serve? A medium of exchange for something of perceived value.
– When you travel without a card:
(i) Why do you change your currency to that of the destination country and
(ii) what determines how much you either change at first or later top-up with?
Truth is, you identify and go after what you value. So the more things you value in that eco-system, the more you position yourself to conveniently transact in and maybe leave/save money in that ‘wallet’ for future use.
So what do we do? The simplicity of the following two options appeals to me:
Rather than bicker, build products that recognize and feed on this velocity attribute.
Make the wallet ecosystem uniquely experiential, so wallet savings become a by-product of a convenience habit – but we’re usually in too much of a hurry to groom what we need to build upon.
Until Mobile-money deployments zero-in on this eco-system to build challenge, quick fixes won’t be sustainable. Solutions have been postulated, for example, mandating that low value payment beneficiaries receive disbursements or wages in wallets rather than as physical cash or bank transfers. Problem is, while we eventually might pay wages into mobile wallets, that won’t address the velocity issue as there’s no incentive to keep transacting in that space. Reason: Most beneficiaries will simply grimace, feeling you have for no good reason placed their monies farther from usual reach. When they sign up for a wallet sequel to this experience, it’s only to open the tap at the other end – via Cash-out.
The eco-systems has to be painstakingly and patiently built, adding lifestyle-relevant features, with wow experiences and fine-tuning iterations. Unfortunately, the corporates who build mobile wallet eco-systems are driven by targets, as well as short-term and unforgiving shareholder expectations.
Theories and postulations abound, but this question of high throttling really requests that we both ask the right questions and seek unique, need-filling digital experiences.

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