Saturday, October 25, 2008

M-Pesa is our hippo!

Technology really is becoming an incredible tool for empowering the poor. Whenever I see a great example of this, I get excited.

Vital Wave Consulting covers the opportunities in serving developing markets and one of their blog posts really grabbed me. In M-Pesa is our hippo! we get to hear the story of a cell phone banking service that gives the poor effective banking services in Kenya when the country's banks have declined to serve them. Other great comments from users of M-Pesa directed at traditional banks:
You closed our accounts and chased us like dogs. Don’t bark at us.
The sly person is in trouble when the fool gets smart.

And, Kenya is not the only country to discover this opportunity. The Philippines has had cell phone banking for years.

The common thread is prepaid cell service. You load up your phone with minutes with money. Why not trade your minutes for money back (for a small fee) or trade minutes with other people as payment for goods and services? These networks establish partnerships with retail outlets, so that many stores become the equivalent of ATMs (automated bank teller machines). It's a great idea, and raises the floor for the poor by giving basic banking services to people the banks have never cared about (until now, when the innovation starts biting at their businesses from the bottom!).

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