As the CEO of a social enterprise, what lessons would you learn from M-Pesa in term of using IT to serve the under-served and creating social value?
M PESA came into existence as Safaricom wanted to develop an alternative finance system for the ‘non banked’ Africans and its initial objective was to allow phone based finance transfers and repayments in the microfinance space at low interest rates. It metamorphosed into a large network for easy, cost effective and time saving money transfer. Today, thanks to M-PESA, it is more convenient to pay for a taxi service in Nairobi than London/New York as more than seventeen million Kenyans are connected through this money system and it consequently adds to a quarter of the country’s GNP.
First learning: there need to be a clear gap as well as an objective to fill that gap. ‘The success of the technology lies in necessity, according to Seema Desai, director of the Mobile Money for the Unbanked (MMU) programme’ (Graham, 2010). Helping money move around especially in a developing nation where there is not easy access to banks is extremely important and hence the system stands to benefit – customers: non-banked rural citizens mainly, businessmen; suppliers; distributors and so on. The system solves the problem of risk of carrying cash in emerging markets.
Second learning: Understanding popular external trends. Technology revolutions have made mobile phones central to financial transactions and one example of a brilliant innovation is NFC. Near field communication (NFC) is changing the way people pay for their shopping in Japan and South Korea and its contactless payment technology is said to be the next big thing. This shows Safaricom’s precision in capitalizing on an opportunity that allows it to test new technology for a social cause.
Third Learning: How to bring about the change? There was a very clear advertising campaign for M PESA – ‘send money home’. MPESA served as a safe money transfer mechanism...
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