Innovation might not be the first concept that comes to mind when you think of Africa, but you might need to think again.
As we all know, need is the mother of all novelty and it is hard to think of a place with more need than that of this great continent.
As it turns out, out of the need to provide with easy and cheap, person to person money transfers, the British Goverment, Vodafone and Safaricom (Kenya’s largest mobile network operator) came out with a model called M-Pesa (M for mobile and pesa for money in Swahili), in which said transactions are made swiftly with your personal phone.
In Kenya, you can easily pay for your taxi rides or any other number of services through your mobile service, once you have signed up to the system (previously mentioned) and made a deposit to one of Safaricom’s many agents (who usually hang out in corner shops), handling them cash. Then, they give you a balance which you can check, transfer or withdraw through your phone’s menu, allowing you to use a bank’s infrastructure but with much lower handling costs.
Once the money is digitalized and easily accessed through your mobile device, using it becomes safer (since you don’t carry it with you), quicker (a transfer takes as long as sending a text) and easier (since you avoid the hassle of going to the bank and everything it implies). This is particularly useful in a country in which many workers send money continuously to their families, who live in rural villages, and before the existence of M – Pesa had to trust in a bus driver take their money to their loved ones or had to take days off work to travel the distance with the cash themselves.
This innovative way of handling money, which was launched in 2007, has expanded rapidly and can be used now as a cheap way of saving or loaning money, paying salaries and settling bills, thus positioning Kenya as an early adopter of a trend (mobile money) which is slowly gaining favor in first world countries, such as the USA or Australia.
M – pesa has further helped push for innovation in Kenya, since it has provided a money platform in which start – ups can base themselves, helping entrepreneurs everywhere to launch new companies easily and safely, and to the profit of Africa herself.
This innovative model and its effective use in Kenya is living proof of how a country can take advantage of its needs (Kenya has a wide population of poor people who have no access to financial services) and use them to fuel change and growth in their society.
Botsman, R. (2014). “Mobile money: The African lesson we can learn”. Retrieved from: http://rachelbotsman.
Munford, M. (2015). “African mobile money begins breaking the bank… A lot of banks”. Retrieved from: https://www.google.com.
T.S. (2013). “Why does Kenya lead the world in mobile money?” Retrieved from: http://www.economist.