Finance

By enabling access to financial services for people without bank accounts, our mobile payment service, M-Pesa, is contributing to economic development in emerging markets

Finance – Our approach

Mobile money services are driving financial inclusion, offering people without a bank account access to financial services. In this way our mobile money transfer and payment product, M-Pesa, enhances the ability of people to improve their livelihoods.

M-Pesa began in 2007, enabling people to transfer small amounts of money to friends and family via their mobile phone; it is now a well-established part of our business with over 16.8 million active users1.

Many people still have no access to financial services, especially in emerging markets. M-Pesa offers people a way to transfer funds that is cheaper than traditional alternatives such as wiring money, and safer than carrying or sending cash.

M-Pesa continues to evolve. Our partnership with the Commercial Bank of Africa, for example, is enabling people to save money and access loans via their mobile phones. In 2013/14, we launched the service in Mozambique, Lesotho, Romania, Egypt and India.

Read on to find out more about M-Pesa and our performance in 2013/14.

Extending access to M-Pesa

M-Pesa is available in a number of markets where the population includes a high percentage of the ‘unbanked’ – people who do not have access to a bank account. In 2013/14, we launched the service in Mozambique, Lesotho, Romania, Egypt and India. M-Pesa also continues to have a strong and growing presence in other states in Africa.

There are now 16.8 million active users of M-Pesa. In 2013/14, the number of active users increased by 18% and we processed 2.8 billion transactions, up 27% from 2012/131.

Investing in distribution agents and outlets is critical to the success and accessibility of M-Pesa. We have approximately 200,000 agents across all M-Pesa markets, extending access to mobile finance services as well as offering employment opportunities.

We are also investing in ambassador programmes to help new customers feel confident and comfortable using the service. In 2013/14, our ambassador programme in Tanzania helped to increase the number of women in our distribution network. So far 2,000 women have completed their training. To learn more about how we are creating other employment opportunities for women around the world, see Women.

M-Pesa in practice

The range of applications for M-Pesa is most extensive in Kenya, where the service was first launched in 2007, and has been enabling millions of people to improve their lives since then. M-Pesa is also making an impact in India, where in states like Tamil Nadu fewer than 5% of villages have access to banking services.

Partnering to develop new mobile money solutions

We are working to develop and extend M-Pesa services beyond basic transactions to enable people to save and borrow money, regardless of whether they have a bank account. In a collaboration between Vodafone, our associate Safaricom and the Commercial Bank of Africa, M-Pesa customers in Kenya can now access interest-bearing savings accounts through a mobile money service known as M-Shwari. M-Shwari customers can take out small loans and earn interest on savings as little as one shilling (equivalent to around a tenth of a US cent).

In India, Vodafone has collaborated with ICICI Bank to support M-Pesa’s growing presence in states in India, from West Bengal to Goa and Haryana. Domestic money transfers are essential to many families in India whose wage-earners have migrated to cities for work. M-Pesa offers a safe, secure and inexpensive way for money to be sent home.

A new service in Kenya, Lipa Na M-Pesa, is enabling merchants to accept payments for goods and services from their customers using the M-Pesa Buy Goods functionality. Lipa Na M-Pesa payments make business owners less susceptible to risks associated with cash handling, such as theft and fake currency, as transactions are processed using mobile phones.

Providing a platform for transformational services

M-Pesa is being used as a payment mechanism to enable many other services that can improve people’s lives.

One example of a company using our payments technology to bring innovative new services to consumers is M-KOPA in Kenya, which has used M-Pesa to launch a solar-charged home power service. M-KOPA customers can buy a solar-powered lighting and mobile phone charging kit by making an initial upfront payment using M-Pesa, followed by payments of any size, at any time (24/7) to top up their ‘credits’. After a year of repayments customers own the system outright, giving them access to free, renewable energy for lighting and phone charging in place of costly, high carbon kerosene lights that affect air quality and can harm people’s health. In its first 18 months, M-KOPA has acquired 65,000 customers and aims to reach one million homes by 2018. This is just one of the ways Vodafone is extending access to energy in emerging markets. Find out more in Low carbon solutions.

Applications of M-Pesa are diverse and the payments platform is at the heart of many new agriculture and health services, from access to insurance against crop failure for smallholder farmers, to sending money to help people in remote areas travel to hospital. Find out more about how M-Pesa is improving people’s lives in the areas of Agriculture, Health and Education.

Notes:

  1. In 2013/14 we changed the way we measure active customers, and now measure those who have made a potentially chargeable transaction in the last 30 days, rather than the last 90.
  2. The Economics of M-Pesa, Georgetown University and MIT (2010)