Relying more on electronic payments, such as cards and mobile payments, could yield a net benefit of up to US $470 billion per year across 100 cities around the world – roughly the equivalent to 3% of the average GDP for these cities.
These are the findings of an independent study conducted by Roubini ThoughtLab and commissioned by Visa examining the economic impact of increasing the use of digital payments in major cities around the world.
“Cashless Cities: Realizing the Benefits of Digital Payments”, is a unique study that quantifies the potential net benefits experienced by cities which move to an “achievable level of cashless-ness”—defined as the entire population of a city moving to digital payment usage equal to the top 10% of users in that city today. The study does not look at eliminating cash. Rather, it seeks to quantify the potential benefits and costs of significantly increasing the use of digital payments.
Nairobi is one of the cities analyzed in the study and its current level of digital maturity is ranked as “digitally transitioning” as it has a moderate adoption readiness, low digital payments usage and a high unbanked population. However, we note that the pace of digital change is accelerating around the world, and in Kenya, the national and county governments and businesses are embracing smart technology and cashless payment solutions for services offered. Mobile money payments are a great accelerator to this and with the right infrastructure, the country will move to be a digital leader.
By reducing reliance on cash, the study estimates the immediate and long-term benefits for three main groups—consumers, businesses and governments. According to the study, these benefits could add up to combined direct net benefits of approximately US $470 billion across the 100 cities that were analyzed:
- Consumers across the 100 cities could achieve nearly $28 billion per year in estimated direct net benefits. This impact would be derived from factors including up to 3.2 billion hours in time saving conducting banking, retail and transit transactions, in addition to a reduction in cash-related crime.
- Businesses across the 100 cities could achieve more than $312 billion per year in estimated direct benefits. This impact would derived from factors including up to 3.1 billion hours in time savings processing incoming and outgoing payments and increased sales revenues stemming from extended online and in-store customer bases. The study also found that accepting cash and checks costs businesses 7.1 cents of every dollar received compared to 5 cents of every dollar collected from digital sources.
- Governments across the 100 cities could achieve nearly $130 billion per year in estimated direct benefits. This impact would be derived from factors including increased tax revenues, increased economic growth, cost savings from administrative efficiencies and lower criminal justice costs due to reduced cash-related crime.
“This study demonstrates the substantial upside for consumers, businesses and governments as cities move toward greater adoption of digital payments,” said Ellen Richey, Visa’s vice chairman and chief risk officer. “Societies that substitute digital payments for cash see benefits from greater economic growth, less crime, more jobs, higher wages, and increased worker productivity.”
As cities increase use of digital payments, the positive impacts can extend beyond financial benefits to consumers, businesses, and government. The shift to digital payments also may have a catalytic effect on the city’s overall economic performance, including GDP, employment, wage, and productivity growth.
“The use of digital technologies—from smart phones and wearables to artificial intelligence and driverless cars—is rapidly transforming how city dwellers shop, travel, and live,” said Lou Celi, Head of Roubini ThoughtLab. “Without a firm foundation in electronic payments, cities will not be able to fully capture their digital future, according to our analysis.”
“Cashless Cities: Realizing the Benefits of Digital Payments” offers 61 recommendations for policymakers to help their cities become more efficient through greater adoption of digital payments. Recommendations include undertaking financial literacy programs to help move the unbanked into the banking system, implementing incentives to stimulate innovation focused on scaling new payment technologies, implementing secure open-loop payment systems across all transportation networks and more.
Visa and Roubini Thoughtlab created an online data visualization tool as a companion to “Cashless Cities: Realizing the Benefits of Digital Payments.” Using the data visualization tool, individuals can increase or decrease the level of digital usage in each of the 100 cities included in the study to better explore the benefits of a world, less dependent on cash.
Roubini Thoughtlab, an economics and evidence-based research firm, surveyed 3,000 consumers and 900 businesses in 2016 across six cities (Tokyo, Chicago, Stockholm, Sao Paolo, Bangkok and Lagos) that represent different levels of digital payments maturity. The surveys examined the use, acceptance, and cost-benefit impact of physical and digital money. Researchers then extrapolated these survey results based on specific demographic and economic data to another 94 cities around the world to determine the net impact of moving toward a cashless economy on consumers and businesses in each location. Through other sources, the research was also able to identify expected impacts on government. Roubini Thoughtlab independently conducted the surveys, managed the research and developed the analysis.