Business Innovation: Thinking about Mobile Services? Watch Kenya!

"Telephone carriers, technology companies, banks, and application developers in the rest of the world would be smart to watch what’s going on in Kenya.  Necessity is hard at work and is producing a a flood of inventions at a rapid pace.

M-Pesa (Pesa is Swahili for money) got its start in Kenya in 2007. The technology underlying the service was developed by Vodafone, which has an equity investment in Safaricom, and the service is run by IBM Global Services. Other Vodafone affiliates run services based on the same technology in Tanzania and Afghanistan, and one debuted in South Africa late last year.

The service is popular in Kenya because only about half of the adults in the country have traditional bank accounts, and far less than 10% have Internet access via a computer. As a result, historically, electronic banking and e-commerce failed to get even a toe-hold in the country. Then came M-Pesa.

Its uses are many. People transfer money from one to another–like a mobile version of PayPal. They pay bills and handle real-time payments, such as for taxi service. They make their insurance payments. They buy airtime for their mobile phones. And they deposit and withdraw money.

M-Pesa is by far the mobile money leader in Kenya with a 95% market share, 13.5 million subscribers and 22,000 agents."

Read more at Kenya Leapfrogs the Rest of the World with its Mobile Money Services, by Steve Hamm.