Friday, May 7, 2010

Bankless Money Transfers

Editor's Note: This might be a great invention for the local currency world to adopt, although it obviously excludes those without cell phones and may encourage people to buy cell phones (not an significant cost to the poor and a health risk). Curious to see if they start charging for this or if it makes money on the money in transit.

M-PESA is an innovative mobile transfer solution that enables customers to transfer money It is aimed at mobile customers who do not have a bank account, either by choice, because they do not have access to a bank or because they do not have sufficient income to justify a bank account.

M-PESA was first launched by the Kenyan MNO Safaricom, an affiliate of Vodafone, in March 2007. M-PESA quickly captured a significant market share for cash transfers, and grew astoundingly quickly, capturing 6.5 million subscribers by May 2009 with 2 million daily transactions in Kenya alone.

The growth of the service forced formal banking institutions to take note of the new venture. In December 2008, a group of banks reportedly lobbied the Kenyan finance minister to audit M-PESA, in an effort to at least slow the growth of the service. This ploy failed, as the audit found that the service was robust. M-Pesa has also been launched in Tanzania, Afghanistan, India, Egypt and South Africa.

M-PESA has been designed so that people without bank accounts can use it. Your money is held safely in a bank account run by M-PESA on your behalf. You do not have any contact with the bank and the bank does not have your details.

M-PESA is a mobile transfer solution and not a mobile banking service. There are many examples of mobile banking across both the developed & developing world, most of which provide access to perform transactions on an existing standard bank account through mobile phone technology. M-PESA was designed specifically for people who do not have access to conventional banking. It is different in that the customer does not need a bank account, only a mobile phone in order to perform transactions. M-PESA provides "mobile money transfers" between cellphone users rather than banking services.

The main difference is that M-PESA is not gaining, nor passing on to customers, any interest earned on the money held in the accounts. We only facilitate money movement, and M-PESA is not a deposit-taking institution. In future we plan to offer M-PESA to facilitate money movement between banks & MFIs and their customers in a convenient, cost effective manner. This will give conventional financial institutions the opportunity to extend their reach & provide a better service to many more Kenyans than they currently reach.

Do I need to have a minimum amount in my account like some banks ask for? No. Your M-PESA account can have as much or as little money in it as you like between zero and KShs. 50,000 at any time.

How can money be sent to people who are not registered customers or who are not even on the Safaricom network? M-PESA is driven by a secure application on the Safaricom SIM. Registered customers have a menu on their phone giving them the ability to move money to other phone number based accounts. Money sent to another registered user will be added to their account balance. If money is sent to a non-registered user, including those on another network, M-PESA sends them a one-time voucher that they will take to an Agent shop. The agent enters this voucher code & the customer's phone number into the M-PESA menu on the shop phone & sends it to M-PESA. The M-PESA system then moves the amount represented by the voucher into the Agents M-PESA account and confirms to both the agent & the customer that the equivalent amount of cash should be given to the customer.

What safe-guards are in place in case of unclaimed funds? For registered users, the money remains in their account as long as their Safaricom sim is active on the network. As no interest is paid on this money, it is not in the customers interests to leave money in their account for an extended period. If their Safaricom subscription expires, we will contact them to request that they withdraw their money. For unregistered users, if they do not cash their M-PESA funds in seven days, the money is automatically returned to the senders account.

Is it possible for someone in Kenya to transfer or receive funds using a foreign sim? M-PESA is only available on Safaricom sims, so only a Safaricom subscriber can deposit or send money. M-PESA uses Kenyan shillings and all of our agents are in Kenya. So whilst it is technically possible to receive money on a foreign sim, unless the recipient is in Kenya, he cannot get at his money.

M-PESA allows customers to send money using their mobile phone without requiring a bank account. Beyond simple money transfer a customer is allocated a stored value account into which e-value is deposited & from where they can send money at their convenience. Additionally a customer does not need to be a subscriber on the provider’s network to receive cash. The combination of these attributes is what makes M-PESA a world first.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I appreciate the information that you have provided in the post about money transfers. It is worth noting and I really liked the presentation as well.I will surely come back for more of interesting posts.