FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Mobile financial services are expected to improve the lives of around 2 billion people in developing countries within a decade and boost economies, a Boston Consulting Group study found.
"Overall, mobile financial services can reduce financial exclusion by 5 percent to 20 percent through 2020 and increase gross domestic product (GDP) by up to 5 percent, with Pakistan, for instance, potentially seeing a 3 percent uplift," the study said.
It added that improved access to finance fostered entrepreneurship, new business creation and new jobs.
The report, released by Norwegian telecom group Telenor on Tuesday, focused on five countries -- Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and Serbia -- which represented a broad development range, it said.
Some 72 percent of the population in developing countries are without access to banks or credit cards according to the study.
They manage to work around this by borrowing from friends and family, obtaining short-term credit from employers, forming savings clubs or seeking out moneylenders but these options were often risky, costly and with indeterminate results.
Telecom firms such as Telenor, Vodafone, Orange and MTN have begun investing in mobile payment systems in Asia and Africa that allow consumers to make basic payments for utilities for example but also participate in savings, credit and insurance programs via mobile phones.
Mobile financial services can also help overcome economic shocks such as natural disasters or unexpected medical emergencies, the study said.
In Kenya, Safaricom's M-Pesa's UAP Insurance insures poor farmers through mobile phones against weather-induced crop failures for example.
Norway's Telenor said it was still early days but that the potential for growth was expected to be huge.
Telenor's EasyPaisa program in Pakistan started with 2,200 retail outlets in October 2009 and now has 12,600 retailers spread over 650 cities across the country.
It has some 10 million estimated users and the total value of money transfers has reached 17.4 billion Pakistan rupees ($167.2 million).
"We believe that mobile financial services will be one of the key drivers for financial inclusion going forward and thus has the potential to be the most powerful tool for economic and social development in emerging economies," Telenor Chief executive Jon Fredrik Baksaas said in a statement on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Nicola Leske; Editing by Erica Billingham)
($1=86.12 Pakistani Rupee)