Mobile Banking Transforming Kenya
By Maria Aguirre
This post discusses the positive effects that mobile banking has brought to the East African country Kenya; it also discusses its recent growth and its impact over the employment of the poorest. This post emphasize on how mobile banking in Africa has had a triggering process. It also considers it as an example to be followed. The features that differentiate mobile banking from regular banking service are its simplicity and the fact that they provide a service to those who remained unbanked.
This video presents Safaricom’s TV advertisement introducing their money transfer service M-pesa.
What is the recent impact that ICTs has had in banking opportunities in Kenya?
Mobile banking in Kenya has had an explosive growth especially since 2007 when the Safaricom bank was created. A project that started with an investment of $1,000 in 2007 had in 2011over 200 outlets across Kenya. Safaricom bank, owned by Patrick Maina, remained strong even with the recent global recession. The global economic depression did not have negative effects over mobile banking in Kenya; it actually benefited it. Nowadays, supporters consider Africa as the leader in banking revolution, and a place where future banking is being designed. The triggers of the massive use of microcredit are the explosive use of cellphones, the fact that banking rules are being created by non-bankers, and the extreme simplicity of its processes (of money transfers, for example).
But, what is the relationship between banking, ICTs and economic development?
Some studies have found that for every additional 10 mobile phones per 100 people in a developing country, GDP rose 0.6% to 1.2% (World Bank and the London Business School). Also, the simple fact of a larger and fastest network that uses cellphones and that is nourished by a very cheap feature -text messages-. These days, you can send money transfers using your cellphone. M-pesa, a service provided by Safaricom, charges a small fee for sending money; in 2011 M-pesa had about 12 million accounts in Kenya, a country with a population of 39 million people. Other options are given to mobile banking customers; they are also able to save money, have access to debit cards and of course, earn interest on their deposits. All these features are essential to the creation and proliferation of small businesses ideas. People who previously had no chance under regular banking regulations have now the opportunity to use this type of service; and in a developing country the amount of people benefiting from these initiatives might be quite high.
ICTs and women
ICTs and banking initiatives has also helped women. For instance, The Grammeen Bank has brought to isolated villages in Bangladesh and Uganda microcredits; this initiative was used by poor rural women to create, for example, a public phone service. Through earnings from this small business venture, female entrepreneurs created a bigger chance to improve their family’s living conditions and pay for their children’s education.
One of the purposes of microcredit was to help women achieve independence from men, in both society and family spheres, by means of creating employment and balancing power relations.
Kenya’s banking revolution, Times Magazine on January, 2011 http://goo.gl/3TEMD
Silicon Savanna: Mobile Phones Transform Africa, Times Magazine on June, 2011 http://goo.gl/jtYmG
Gender and Information & Communications Technology, in USAID http://goo.gl/FxDx5
Women in the information society, in Panos London Illuminating Voices http://goo.gl/InPZl