Kenya Doesn’t Run on Dunkin; It Runs on M-Pesa

While the idea of payments on smartphones is still playing catch-up in the rest of the world, sending money using a phone — even a bamba phone — is old news for Kenyans. In March 2017, M-Pesa celebrated its 10th-year anniversary. Today there are 18 million active users in Kenya. M-pesa transaction values stand at 6.8 billion kenya shillings. But this is not about the numbers. This is about people empowerment.

When M-Pesa entered the market in 2007, it disrupted the financial market. It enabled people from poor communities who wouldn’t usually have access to traditional banks to finally transfer, receive and save money. This provided people with the proper infrastructure to start and grow businesses as they could pay for suppliers, receive money from customers, and take — and repay — loans easily.

On the ground, you might find people complaining about the interface.

“It feels like it’s still stuck in 2007,” someone I know once said.

But this is an example where the platform has blown up so much and become so prevalent, the UI/UX design really doesn’t matter.

It’s simple.

It does the job.

Everybody uses it.

That’s what matters.

Economists Tavneet Suri and William Jack studied the long-term impact of mobile money by tracking the finances of Kenyans over multiple years and discovered that mobile money made a dent in poverty especially for households led by women.

And you’d think that such a financial beast would have bullet-proof-glass-protected stores from which you can withdraw and deposit money, but that’s the beauty of it. M-pesa kiosks can be found in jua kali vibambas like the ones pictured below, and they’re everywhere.

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