Mobile payments service M-Pesa continues to thrive in its home base of Kenya. But expansion into other parts of Africa is proceeding slowly, including in South Africa, where M-Pesa was relaunched last year after a disappointing start in 2010.
Mobile telephone carrier Safaricom's M-Pesa has given many urban and rural Kenyans access to mobile payments. The next phase of development should focus on peer-to-peer microfinance loans, write Raheel Jariwalla and Azzam Ramji. Safaricom can "create considerable value for Kenya's [impoverished] rural population, while expanding their own revenue base and capturing significant growth potential in rural financial services," they argue.
Kenya's lively market for mobile money services, dominated by M-Pesa, is beginning to open up. Agents who previously were restricted to selling the M-Pesa service are free under a new law to offer others as well.
Kenya's M-Pesa processed $10 billion worth of mobile transfers last year, but Africa as a whole is beginning to lose ground worldwide as a mobile payments leader. African mobile companies still have an advantage in creating technologies suited for the continent's unique needs, writes Howard Moodycliffe.
A new initiative by the mobile industry trade group GSM Association funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will test the delivery of financial services via mobile phone or device. Such a service is online in Kenya -- the payment service M-PESA founded in 2007.