The Success Story of M-pesa; the Kenyan Phone Banker

M-pesa, which is a mobile money transfer technology, has revolutionized how business is transacted in Kenya and East Africa. They say it was not invented in Kenya, but I take pride in the way we have made it look our own. I take pride in clever Japanese or American inventions yet am neither. I view it as a human achievement. It was launched in 2007 in the Kenyan market.

I have watched with keen interest interviews and news on M-pesa lately and noticed how every person spoke so positively of it. The experts say:
  • 70% of financial transactions are now handled by M-pesa. This amounts to sh.60billion a month or sh.1trillion a year.

M-pesa started a few years ago and has experienced robust growth since then. Safaricom is a small company worldwide as it is small out there. A friend of mine calls Safaricom "Jogoo la Shamba na hali wiki mjini". So what has made this "Jogoo la Shamba kuwika sana shambani?". There are various reasons that are attributed to its success and I will list them for you below.

  • Safaricom's vast distribution network all over the country-it ensured it had agents at the grassroots
  • Large market share-80% at the time of inception
  • Brand loyalty and brand distinction it enjoys
  • Kenyan's spectacular willingness and readiness to embrace and put faith in new technology
N/B: Indeed one cannot forget to mention Kenyans cry of exploitation by the traditional finance sharks. As soon as they discovered that they could trade goods and transfer funds without interference from the greedy and costly banking sector, they easily embraced M-pesa. Now it is the Banks begging for access to M-pesa. Now there are millions of economically active people without a bank account.
Its also worth noting that Safaricom has never been a low cost provider ever hence they must have alot of funds to invest. You cannot also separate M-pesa's popularity from the magic of Michael Joseph(MJ)- some people have it when it comes to pushing products.

The service has also been launched in several other countries:-
  • Tanzania-2008
  • Afghanistan-2008
  • South Africa-2010
However, in other countries it has contributed to lower than expected adoption of the service. This is due to significant differences with the Kenyan market.
Currently, IBM Global Service & Rackhosting hosts M-pesa. I have always wondered why not in Kenya.
Despite M-pesa taking over a huge chunk of financial transactions, Banks still report enormous amounts of profit.Companies now use it to collect payments e.g KPLC. Some even use it to pay there employees.

Various books and journals have been published about M-pesa e.g "Money, Real Quick" a book written by Tonny K. Omwansa, a lecturer at the School of Computing and Informatics, University of Nairobi and Nicholas P. Sullivan a fellow at the Fletcher School in USA. The book expounds on the innovation, the execution and impact of M-PESA, the mobile money service operated in Kenya by Safaricom and is now available in several other countries, including Tanzania and South Africa.
The nine chapter book is based on an extensive field work and provides a comprehensive, easy to read broad-range narrative of a technological innovation being exported from Africa.

M-pesa has become as indispensable as the mobile itself(I can't do without my phone). Dislodging it from Kenya is near impossible. It is now a verb whether with Zap, YuCash, Orange Money or Tangaza.

When the story of M-pesa is finally written it will be bigger than what it is now. Perhaps it will have separated ways with Safaricom.

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About Rowland Mtetezi

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  1. m-pesa has been a wonderful phenomenon, putting Kenya on the map for the right reason. Hop Safaricom will not get arrogant and miss some step.

    1. I also hope that they would soon become to one giant finance shark which goes by greed and no fair motivation!

  2. The success of M-PESA in Kenya is actually becoming a reference point here in Nigeria as the country's Central Bank is making efforts to introduce a cash-less policy in Nigeria.

    We are proud to associate with our Kenyan brothers on this positive innovation on the country.

    1. @Julius Ipoola, us Kenyans we are glad that it is starting to make an impact in other nations, not only in Africa!