m pesa

wikipedia small

M-Pesa (M for mobile, pesa is Swahili for money) is a mobile phone-based money transfer and microfinancing service, launched in 2007 by Vodafone forSafaricom and Vodacom, the largest mobile network operators in Kenya and Tanzania. It has since expanded to Afghanistan, South Africa, India and in 2014 to Eastern Europe. M-Pesa allows users to deposit, withdraw, transfer money and pay for goods and services (Lipa na M-Pesa) easily with a mobile device.

microfinance ness

The service allows users to deposit money into an account stored on their cell phones, to send balances using PIN-secured SMS text messages to other users, including sellers of goods and services, and to redeem deposits for regular money. Users are charged a small fee for sending and withdrawing money using the service. M-Pesa is a branchless banking service; M-Pesa customers can deposit and withdraw money from a network of agents that includes airtime resellers and retail outlets acting as banking agents.

M-Pesa has spread quickly, and by 2010 had become the most successful mobile-phone-based financial service in the developing world. By 2012, a stock of about 17 million M-Pesa accounts had been registered in Kenya. The service has been lauded for giving millions of people access to the formal financial system and for reducing crime in an otherwise largely cash-based society.

intro’d to m pesa via this 60 minutes episode – about m pesa in kenya:


kenya adopted mobile money years ago…

in u.s. we have mobile money.. but attached to bank.. in kenya.. no bank connection

while most don’t have a bank account.. 8 in 10 have access to a cell phone..

you’re texting money. via a very basic one.. lowest level of tech

like having a bank in your pocket

85000 like her across kenya.. human atms

bankless banking…

invented in england..

ihub in niroabi – inventing new ways to use money

90% of adults use m pesa

places where there are no banks.. because little money… so m pesa works with many small amounts of money

19 mill w small amounts.. makes 1/4 of billion dollars..

govt was hands off..

most defective barrier.. is the banking lobby…

drawbacks… criminal enterprises et al…

has been tried other places.. but haven’t caught on like kenya


money ness



radical econ (d&c)


Misplaced enthusiasm about bitcoin in Kenya is another chapter in the “tech will let Africa leapfrog” story: https://t.co/tp0n8TPiIk

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/EthanZ/status/684029918330617856

they attempted to build partnerships with merchants like Bejo’s at first. They then realized they didn’t have enough users to focus on merchants, and that many of the 12 local businesses they worked with didn’t understand the blockchain. They put a hold on their merchant efforts, pivoting their focus to creating a microtransaction app for bitcoin.
The problem was that the remittance market did not catch on as predicted.

Bitcoin was also sold as a way of reaching the poor and unbanked, and investors who came to Africa would sometimes blend their sales pitch with an ounce of evangelicalism. Rossiello said she has to remind people she is not vaccinating orphans, that she is running a business, albeit in an emerging market. “We cannot tell you we believe we’re going to raise people out of poverty,” Rossiello said.

Rossiello has to stress this because these investors often don’t understand Kenya, or perhaps don’t even want to understand Kenya, but instead just see Kenya as a place without Western technology and that is thus in need of it.


Kipochi founder Pelle Braendgaard said M-Pesa, celebrated as a way of introducing digital money to the masses, actually used its immense power as a gatekeeper to keep startups out of the market. M-Pesa’s decision to stop bitcoin-related transactions on its platform is something Bitpesa and Lipisha Africa are currently challenging in court.

m pesa


“It comes down to the general picture that has been drawn of Africa in the West. You might believe that you are helping, even though you are an entrepreneur just like any other.”


These narratives, however, are dangerous when they smudge the messy realities of African countries. The Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole, in an article critiquing America’s reaction to the Kony 2012 video, explains how Africa has always been seen as a playground for Western adventurers:

Africa has provided a space onto which white egos can conveniently be projected. It is a liberated space in which the usual rules do not apply: a nobody from America or Europe can go to Africa and become a godlike savior or, at the very least, have his or her emotional needs satisfied. Many have done it under the banner of “making a difference.”


“I love bitcoin to the bone,” Juma said. “I do not think bitcoin is going to change everything. I don’t think it is enough. I think there is more to improve. I think it’s great that we do have bitcoin, but I think Africa needs to develop its own solutions.”

a nother way… radical econ … and deeper.. deep enough


from Arundhati Roy‘s my seditious heart:


many yrs later, this idea has trickled down to the impoverished countryside of bangladesh when mohammed yunus and the grameen bank brought microcredit to starving peasants w disastrous consequences.. the poor of the subcontinent have always lived in debt, in the merciless grip of the local village usurer – the bania.. but microfinance has corporatized that, too. microfinance companies in india are responsible fo r 100s of suicides – 200 people in andhra pradesh in 2010 alone..

m pesa et al.. yunus

there’s a lot of money in poverty, and a few nobel prizes too