M-Pesa

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Definition

From the Wikipedia:

"M-Pesa (M for mobile, pesa is Swahili for money) is a mobile-phone based money transfer and microfinancing service, launched in 2007 by Vodafone for Safaricom and Vodacom, the largest mobile network operators in Kenya and Tanzania. It has since expanded to Afghanistan, South Africa, India and in 2014 to Eastern Europe. M-Pesa allows users with a national ID card or passport to deposit, withdraw, and transfer money easily with a mobile device." (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-Pesa)

Description

Ken Banks:

"Click a few keys, exchange a few numbers, and it’s done. With just a mobile phone and a registration with Safaricom, Kenya’s mobile service giant, you can pay for anything in seconds – no cash, no long journeys to towns to reach a bank, and no long lines when you get there. This is m-Pesa, the revolutionary approach to banking which is changing economies across Africa. The service allows customers and businesses to pay for anything without needing cash, a bank account, or even a permanent address." (http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/07/04/the-invisible-bank-how-kenya-has-beaten-the-world-in-mobile-money/)


Discussion

By Olivia O’Sullivan

"A revolution in mobile money transfer has occurred, but not in these financial centres. Instead, it’s happened in Kenya, with m-Pesa.

The service was developed between Safaricom and Vodafone, and launched in 2007. And it’s not just something used in cities or by big commercial interests. By 2010, over 50% of Kenya’s population had used it – this means rural villagers haggling over produce, then using their Nokias to make the final deal. It means Masai herdsmen bringing their phones to market along with their cattle, ready to stock up on essentials to bring back to their homes.


For people who live in isolated areas, the service means no longer having to carry lots of cash to markets or towns, risking losing huge amounts to banditry and theft. For people without permanent addresses or bank accounts, the service means they can pay what cash they have to m-Pesa in exchange for mobile credit, making payments and transfers and building up savings – becoming participants in an economy from which they had previously been locked out. For migrants, the service allows them to send money home to their families and villages safely and simply. Safaricom’s international money transfer service uses a similar system for international immigrants, coordinating great webs of remittances and payments across the world. For Kenyan businesses, the service means payments for stock or repairs can happen almost instantaneously, wiping out the need to rely on bank clearances and flawed infrastructure which had clogged the economy with inefficiencies and delays.

So how does it work? m-Pesa relies on a network of small shop-front retailers, who register to be m-Pesa agents. Customers come to these retailers and pay them cash in exchange for loading virtual credit onto their phone, known as e-float. E-float can be swapped and transferred between mobile users with a simple text message and a system of codes. The recipient of e-float takes her mobile phone into her nearest retailer when she wants to cash in, and swaps her text message code back for physical money. There are already more m-Pesa agents in Kenya than there are bank branches.


Such a system also requires intermediaries, to get the cash to m-Pesa agents, and ensure cash movement keeps up with e-float exchanges. In this way, the system has created new jobs, with some intermediaries and retailers earning $1000 a month in commission from m-Pesa transactions.

As of m-Pesa’s fifth birthday – March 6 2012 – it had been used by a staggering 15 million people. The system was employed by the ‘Kenyans for Kenya’ campaign to raise money for Kenyans suffering from the Horn of Africa drought – just one way in which it has contributed to independence and innovation in Kenya’s economy." (http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/07/04/the-invisible-bank-how-kenya-has-beaten-the-world-in-mobile-money/)


Status

"In response to m-Pesa’s success, the model has been imitated in other countries. Africa’s biggest mobile operator MTN has rolled out schemes elsewhere, the most ambitious in Kenya’s neighbour Uganda. Central banks in some countries, such as Brazil, have now created financial inclusion teams, with a vision for using similar systems to bring financial access to the poor and isolated. The Indian government has also shown determination to achieve this aim, and analysts predict, with its strong IT infrastructure and dense population, India too could be on the road to becoming a cash-light, financially inclusive economy in the near future." (http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/07/04/the-invisible-bank-how-kenya-has-beaten-the-world-in-mobile-money/)