What Nigerian Banks need to Learn from Kenya Mpesa

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Mobile banking is becoming quite popular in Nigeria, but Kenya seems to be way ahead of us by light years. Very recently I was in Kenya for a music related gig and for my phone call needs I was advised to register with Airtel Kenya. My mistake. Almost everyone I spoke to or wanted to do a transaction with asked me if I was on M-Pesa. And it was only available on Safaricom, not Airtel. Sigh.

M-Pesa — “pesa” means “money” in Swahili — has made a dramatic impact over this time.
M-PESA was launched by Vodafone’s Safaricom mobile operator in 2007 as a simple method of texting small payments between users. Today 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.
By June 2016, a total of 7 million M-Pesa accounts have been opened in Tanzania by Vodacom. The service has been lauded for giving millions of people access to the formal financial system and for reducing crime in otherwise largely cash-based societies. – Wikipedia
The only thing we have in the Nigerian banking sector is USSD Codes – and even that has its issues. The possibilities are endless when you think about what Kenya Mpesa is about.

Things you can do with MPESA

kenya mpesa
  • Transfer money easily between your bank and M-PESA
  • Enjoy Convenience with the ability to access money from your account any time whether the bank is open or not. This will help you save on time and the cost of travelling to your branch plus the hustle of queuing.
  • Since the service is accessed through your mobile phone, it lowers the risk associated with handling cash. You can use the cash withdrawn to pay utility bills, pay for purchases and for money transfer. This makes Bank to M-PESA very convenient in emergency situations.

kenya mpesa

What’s so cool about Mpesa is that even old people can use it. You can pay an okada man via mpesa (yes, they have those too) and I don’t mean via bank transfer.

What triggered this post was when I went on a lunch date with a friend at Mama Ashanti, and after the meal, no cash, he just went to his phone, (mind you, it wasn’t a fancy phone) opened Mpesa, clicked on pay bill, inserted the Restaurant’s Mpesa’s number and paid! I was impressed. Note that this wasn’t a bank transfer to an account number. He basically just paid his bill!

The MPESA Interface.

Kenya’s Mpesa is like our normal USSD banking in Nigeria but better because it’s not limited to a bank. It’s also available in more than 10 countries in the world, though South Africa couldn’t keep up with the pressure. I witnessed the power of good banking in Kenya, and I can’t get over it.

Here’s a mini comparison chart between Kenya Mpesa and Nigerian USSD System

Kenya MpesaNigerian Banks USSD
Available in over 10 CountriesAvailable only in Nigeria.
Withdraw money from your Mpesa account from a counter (like a bank)How????
Transfer money to another person's Mpesa AccountNot Available unless it's the same bank
Pay anything with MPESA - House Rent, Buy a Car, ANYTHINGYou'll be hanged
They just introduced TAP AND PAY. It's a wristband, like in concerts.No Comment. Sigh
If you send money to a wrong MPESA account in error, IT CAN BE REVERSED. In Nigeria you have to send sms BEGGING the person to send to you.
You can withdraw from an ATM. (Without a card.) No Code Necessary. Just MpesaWhen you're not a thief?
Good bankingWe need to do better.

FUN FACT: You thought the funds held in M-PESA were held (and used) by Safaricom. The funds are deposited in several commercial banks, which are prudentially regulated in Kenya. In addition, the funds are held by a Trust and are therefore out of reach from Safaricom, which cannot access or use them. In the unfortunate event of Safaricom going bankrupt, the creditors of Safaricom would not have access to the M-PESA funds. This is a requirement from the Central Bank of Kenya which oversees M-PESA. The funds remain at all times the property of M-PESA users. – CGAP

Like I said, I made a mistake registering with Airtel Kenya. Next time, I’m safaricom. No contest. 🙂

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