Last week I was in Kenya for a workshop organised by Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Nairobi in collaboration with Sugarpulp, with the University of Nairobi and with Chronicae – International Festival of the Historical Romance.
So I discovered a Country that, despite all the contraddictions tipical of the African continent, lives the innovation in a direct and concrete way.
M-Pesa, is a mobile money-transfer system, is the classic example of how innovation and technology are tools that change people’s daily habits and lives.
M-Pesa is a money transfer service between cell phone users owned by Safaricom (subsidiary of Vodafone society). Thanks to M-Pesa it is possible to transfer money easily and securely from one phone to another. We are talking about a service thathas been active in Kenya for 10 years and is spreading in many other African countries.
Today M-Pesa is active in 10 countries (Albania, Egypt, Ghana, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania), has almost 30 million users and is becoming more and more a real system of home-banking.
As can be read in Business Daily Africa the incomes of M-Pesa sono has grown by the 16,2% to reach over 30.05 billion of Kenyan shillings in the first half of 2017 (around 250 million of euros), so much so that today they represent the real engine of growth for Safaricom.
Only in December 2016 M-Pesa recorded operations for more than 600 million euros.
While in Italy there are still discussions about commercial activities that do not allow you to pay by debit or credit card, commissions, queues in the mail for bills, cash and blablablabla control, in Kenya everybody are using M-Pesa to pay anything from coffee to taxi. Indeed, the taxi is not because now in Nairobi all use Uber, much safer and cheaper than traditional taxis.
With M-Pesa you pay salaries, bills, medical expenses, you can shop at the market … in one word: everything.
And we are talking about an active service since 10 years ago, when in Italywe are going out of our minds about crazy innovation because Apple pay has landed… system that beyond the fuffa-marketing prevailing has still diffusion numbers practically ridiculous.
At the beginning M-Pesa was mainly used to send money to relatives in the suburban villages, but today it is a liquid and capillary system to use money every day.
We must first realize that in Africa the era of computers, desktops or laptops, has been skipped by a generation that has found itself with the smartphone in their hand.
In Africa, much more than we do, the smartphone is today a fundamental tool for people’s daily lives, and not just in big cities. This situation, common to many other areas of the world, has meant that in recent years many emerging countries, Kenya in the first place, became laboratories of innovation.
The name of M-Pesa is the product of the merger between the word “mobile” and that “weighs”, which in Swahili means money.
Initially developed by Sagentia, the project was sponsored in the years 2003-2007 by the Department for International Development (DFID) in the United Kingdom.