When discussing financial inclusion in Africa, it’s hard to have that conversation without including M-Pesa. The product, born in 2007, has utilized the telecommunication networks to provide a way for Kenyans, and now many other Africans, to hold and transfer funds digitally through mobile money. Today, M-Pesa transfers over a $1B each month from their 40 million users. Their innovation has inspired many other mobile money operators worldwide that now process about $2B per day according to GSMA’s 2019 industry report.
Last year, M-Pesa took things to the next level by solidifying a partnership with The Western Union Company is a US financial services company with headquarters in Englewood, Colorado with offices and agents all over the world offering services such as money transfers (P2P, P2B and B2B, money orders, and other business & commercial services. With close to 12,000 employees, more than 500,000 agent locations in over 200 countries and territories, Western Union is... want more? so that Kenyans could send money to nearly anywhere in the world via their mobile wallets. They entered this innovation into the RemTECH Awards 2019 and won the Remittances Synergies award. We catch up with Olivia Etyang, Product Manager of M-Pesa Global to hear how their partnerships are going, how they are coping with COVID-19 and their outlook for Africa.
Q: How has the partnership with WU affected remittance prices out of Kenya now that people can send from their phones?
A: We have seen increased adoption of the Send Service, Senders from Kenya used to go to Agents and there is a shift to Mobile….the uptake is obviously slow because of COVID ’19 but generally we are seeing a steady increase in adoption of this service with very good growth.
Q: What has the customer response been like? Any surprises?
A: We have been running a campaign in the last 2 months and the feedback is very positive. We still have a lot of work to do especially in offering competitive pricing and ensuring service stability.
Q: You worked with the Central Bank of Kenya to waive fees and encourage mobile money use during the Corona pandemic. Has this strategy worked?
A: Thanks to the regulator, we are seeing adoption especially for lower band transactions that are free. We are also seeing transaction limit barriers being lifted and especially serving the SME segment. Customers can now do more with M-PESA.
Q: M-Pesa has been vocal about your commitment to financial inclusion and to provide more services than money transfers and payments in the future. What can we look forward to?
A: There is a lot more to be done, Cash is still King though we are really looking to drive more cashless transactions. We are looking to improve customer experience with our various channels, more strategic partnerships to offer solutions that our customers have been asking for in various product verticals.
Q: What are you most excited about the Visa partnership?
A: Visa Partnership will bring along payment interoperability as well as open up M-PESA to the global marketplace. It will facilitate global electronic commerce and enable M-PESA to create improved payment experiences for M-PESA Customers.
Q: What else are you excited about with financial inclusion in Africa?
A: There is a lot happening in Africa. Banks are coming up with similar wallet models to serve the unbanked. A lot of services are getting digitized e.g. Insurance. Regulation is easing off and we recently saw Ghana Licensing ZeePay to offer Payment Services. E-Commerce is picking up in most parts of Africa especially during this season.
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