3 Ways Mobile Money Transfer Has Changed Kenyans’ Lives

M-Pesa payment till at a restaurant in Kenya. Photo released under Creative Commons by Wikipedia user Raidarmax.

M-Pesa payment till at a restaurant in Kenya. Photo released under Creative Commons by Wikipedia user Raidarmax.

March 2014 marks seven years since M-Pesa, a mobile-phone based money transfer and micro-finance service, was introduced to Kenya by telecoms company Safaricom. M-Pesa works like a bank: subscribers store money in their mobile phones and withdraw it from a Safaricom shop or the company's agents by providing photo identification and a designated number.

Safaricom was the first company in Kenya to offer mobile money transfers. It remains the dominant player today, with other companies such as Airtel, Orange and Yu also offering similar services. To celebrate the seven-year anniversary, Safaricom encouraged Kenyans on Twitter to use the hashtag #BeforeMPESA to explain how the service has affected their lives.

Here are the three most common responses:

1. M-Pesa has given Kenyans an alternative way to store money safely:

2. Kenyans can now pay for almost anything through M-Pesa, even church offerings [sadaka] and electricity bills:

3. M-Pesa can be accessed from any phone:

@kebiwot #7YearsOfMPESA but the phone is 20 years old

Still, not everyone is so keen on M-Pesa

Some Kenyans used the anniversary to express frustration with M-Pesa and criticize those praising the service:

Samuel Gikuru questioned Safaricom's motives and even accused the company of stealing the idea from a Kenyan:

Is it me or has someone else noted Safaricom is doing everything with intent on Killing Kenyan Tech Start Ups? From venturing into Pay TV,insurance…A story is told in Kenya of how a Kenyan was robbed off his billion dollar idea that is todays Mpesa.The brain child/think tank is said to have approached Safaricom executives who turned him away saying his idea couldn’t be done only for them to launch the service a few months later.Thats the story on every Kenyan lips.However,a new book reveals that a senior Vodafone employee conceived M-Pesa in 2003. Kenyans had close to nothing to do with the creation of M-Pesa that had put the country on the global radar as an innovation hub.

….With MPESA, privacy is not guaranteed.For as little as 10 shillings, you can have the identity of the owner of that line,if his number is registered for the service,as simple as that.In addition to this Kidnappers use this service to demand ransom.To ensure they won”t be apprehended easily,they open an account using a fake ID that can be prepared illegally on demand in Nairobi’s notorious River road street.Safaricom does nothing to counter check the genuineness of the ID number.


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