But haven’t we heard this story somewhere before? Well, yes: Africa actually, Kenya, to be specific. They must be scratching their heads over there at our excitement.
Money transfers on mobiles are old news in the global South. They have been commonplace in countries like Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa since 2007. Using Vodacom’s M-Pesa service (which, while it was a start-up, was partly funded by DfID) customers can deposit and withdraw money, transfer money to other users and non-users, pay bills and purchase airtime. It has been a phenomenal success. An estimated 14 million people were using the service as of October last year and the number of transfers on the service surpassed those undertaken globally by Western Union.
This innovative money transfer system has allowed Kenyans to transfer, since 2007, over Sh828bn, an amount that is about half of the country’s GDP. The lazy stereotypes of Africa are being undermined by developments like this, and that is a great thing. Innovation and entrepreneurship in countries like Kenya means we should get used to plenty more of these stories in the future. It’s nice to see lumbering, Northern corporations finally catching up…
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