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.
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.
Nairobi's mobile payments service M-Pesa, which has expanded banking to new populations in Africa, has started a move into Europe, expanding into Romania. M-Pesa uses a text messaging technology developed by Vodafone to allow customers to make cash deposits and withdrawals, pay bills and buy everyday items. "Should the Romanian launch prove successful, I'd expect Vodafone to expand in territories such as Albania and Turkey," said mobile analyst Jack Kent with IHS Technology in London.
A global aid agency has used a Safaricom mobile-phone payment system to distribute cash to stricken Kenyans under a pilot program that the company and co-sponsor Vodafone have expanded to neighboring Tanzania. The Irish charity Concern helped develop the M-Pesa program that uses SMS text messages to transmit cash to 2,500 outlets throughout Kenya.