The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) said the telecoms sector is now a critical element in the country’s economy, as it revealed strong figures relating to mobile payments for goods and services.

In a report, CA noted the telecom industry’s contribution to Kenya’s broader economy laid a foundation for growth in mobile money services. The regulator also hinted mobile financial services could be a boon for operators moving forward by helping to offset declining voice and SMS traffic.

According to CA statistics, the value of payments for goods and services made on mobile money platforms hit KES627.4 billion ($6 billion) in the opening quarter of 2017, placing mobile payments comfortably ahead of cash and card payments, which totalled KES471.1 billion during the period.

The authority said mobile commerce transactions during Q1 2017 stood at 290.5 million, and the number of active mobile money transfer agents registered climbed from 161,583 in Q4 2016 to 174,018 in the recent quarter.

A key figure for operators is the number of mobile money subscriptions, which CA placed at 27.5 million in Q1. With the authority noting total mobile subscriber numbers hit 39.1 million during the period, it means just over 70 per cent of all mobile users in the country are signed up to a money service.

CA noted the benefits of mobile money go beyond the telecoms sector, predicting the growth in wireless purchases could spur a much needed recovery in the post and courier segment, which it stated had demonstrated a “downward trend” during Q1.