The explosion of mobile telephony in recent times has led to the emergence of a significant volume of literature. One area that has been relatively under-researched has been the role of mobile telephony in impacting economic growth and the relevance of financial inclusion in this respect. Using data on MENA countries during 2001-2012, this paper aims to examine this issue within an empirical framework.
The analysis is based on longitudinal data for the period 2001-2012 and examines the interrelationships among per capita income, financial inclusion and mobile telephony. To take on board this interrelationship, the authors use a simultaneous equation model. In contrast to the ordinary least squares, 3SLS exploits the information that the disturbance terms in the two structural terms are contemporaneously correlated, thereby producing consistent estimates.
The analysis suggests a significant relationship among these variables. In particular, a 1 per cent increase in the fraction of population using mobile telephony improves incomes by roughly 0.3 per cent points, whereas a similar 1 per cent increase in financial inclusion has double the impact on income. The findings also support a convex, non-linear relationship between income and cellular penetration. Robustness tests lend credence to these findings.
Although there are several studies on mobile telephony and growth, this paper provides a completely original contribution in the area of financial inclusion, linking the development of access to mobile communication to new channels for the unbanked population in the Arab economies.
A part of the work was done when the author was working with the Qatar Central Bank in Doha, Qatar. The views expressed and the approach pursued in the paper are strictly personal.
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